Photography by Matthew Salacuse
Being a gay rapper is sort of like being a yarmulke salesman in Saudi Arabia; it takes a bulletproof confidence to wade into one of the most aggressively homophobic scenes and start spitting rhymes about the joys of gay sex. But Rashard Bradshaw, a.k.a. Cakes Da Killa, doesn't pull any punches. His first full-length, The Eulogy (Mishka Records), features hilariously graphic descriptions of filthy romps in Honda Civics and relentless lyrical beat-downs for the haters who may not wish to be privy to such filth. The final verse of the single "Goodie Goodies," for example, goes like this: "Dripping sweat, I'mma need a fucking bucket/ Soaking wet, bitin' pillows, doin' couplets/ Don't beg, cause you can have it if you want it/ Don't be greedy, I've got seconds in the oven!"
Cakes Da Killa certainly isn't the first openly gay rapper, but his swagger, ribaldry, and use of samples -- everything from reggae to Donna Summer -- set him apart from a subset that includes acts like Le1f and Mykki Blanco. He has a gift for wordplay that's obvious from even a cursory listen to the songs on The Eulogy, but when Cakes declares that he can "spit shit to make a homophobe a hypocrite," the folks he's talking about will most likely be too busy bobbing their heads to notice they just got dissed.
Born and raised in Teaneck, N.J., a small, leafy suburb a few miles from Manhattan, Cakes started rapping in high school. "It was just for shits and giggles," says the gregarious MC, who dyes the top of his hair blond and sports a small ring through his nose. "I was just trying to make fun of people." He first began writing tracks to instrumentals he found on the Internet and posting them to Facebook. In 2011, his homemade demos came to the attention of a producer named Stixx, who invited Cakes to appear on the mixtape Downtown Mayhem Volume One. Stixx, who runs the Downtown Mayhem label, also released the rapper's debut EP, Easy Bake Oven, last year. "I was never going to do it by myself," says Cakes. "Stixx gave me the shot and said, 'Now here's your moment.' "
After Easy Bake Oven was released as a free download, Cakes, currently a fashion studies major at Montclair University, began producing his own videos and booking more live shows. "Since I'm really poor and in college, I meet people who are in art school and we barter to produce the videos with no budget," he says.
The new album was released via the clothing brand Mishka, which sponsors mixtapes and posts them for free on its website. Cakes doesn't earn any money from it, but his shows have begun to draw larger crowds and bigger paychecks. Still, he admits that performing as an openly gay ratchet rapper can be challenging in some venues. "I didn't start out performing at gay shows," Cakes says. "When I began, the majority of the audience was straight, but I'm the type of person who just performs my material, and if you like it, you like it, and if you don't, you don't." He adds that he hasn't had any major run-ins with audience members.
Asked where he falls in the current wave of queer hip-hop, the funnyman turns serious. "I came out in the third grade," he says. "This is just me being me. People make it sound like it's controversial and revolutionary, and that's weird to me, because in hip-hop you have people glorifying negativity like killing people and not taking care of your kids -- and that should be scandalous! That should be what we talk about. An openly gay rapper shouldn't be breaking news."
Listen to "The Eulogy" below: