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Queer Rapper Cakes Da Killa on Finding Self in Music: 'I Was Born Out of the Closet'

Eric Johnson

The rapidly rising artist discusses his newest record, Hedonism, and where he finds inspiration.

If you don't have spitfire rapper Cakes Da Killa in your life to keep things hot then you're doing it wrong. Honestly. Truly.

On October 21, the New Jersey-native rapper dropped his debut album Hedonism, a creative, raw, high-octane record that'll lift your spirits and get you feeling yourself--and the dance floor. Featuring guest collabs with Calore, Peaches, Rye Rye, and Josh Dst, Hedonism is about acknowledging your own self-worth.

"I was getting this whole reputation of being a hyper sexual character," Cakes told Out. "I decided I wanted to talk about things that were a little bit more personal. I do feel like I talk about personal things but maybe I rap too fast so it goes over people's heads."

In the years since he majored in fashion studies and journalism and interned at fashion magazines, Cakes Da Killa has dropped five critically acclaimed mixtapes, toured internationally, amassed an international following, and has been a highlight at multiple international music festivals.

He's grown a lot throughout these years. "I'm definitely a lot more open now and that comes with me getting a lot more polished. I've been moving in the industry for a while now so I know a lot more about the ins-and-outs, the business of it, and I think I've made more connections. I'm just trudging forward in my journey!"

Out caught up with Cakes and discussed jerk chicken, relationships, and how ballroom has influenced his sound.

Out: You're part of Qween Beat, a ballroom collective and you all just put on your first ball, the Qweendom Ball, last week. How was the function?

Cakes Da Killa: Oh my god, it was so fucking good. It was really, really amazing. It all came together really lovely for it being our first ball, the first time we ever put together our own ball.

That's amazing. Did anybody stand out? Who was really carrying?

Sinia (Ebony) went off as usual, but the whole night was a very positive turn out. It was a very positive ball.

I'm wondering, how has ballroom impacted you as an artist? It's a flavor you can hear throughout the record--the chanting, the sass, even the way Peaches on "Up Out My Face" chants "Face, Face, Face."

A lot of the commentators are people that definitely shaped me and my flow, people like Gregg Evisu and Kevin JZ Prodigy. They taught me how to write a beat and how to be confident in my sexuality, to just do it. Ballroom is everything to me because ballroom is kind of the incubator where a lot of gay people of color go to find confidence and to find families and, you know, water their creativity. Ballroom is really great. I think it's a community that we as black people and Spanish people who are gay should definitely give back to and always credit.

How important is it for you to be out as an artist, especially as an artist of color?

The reason I'm so visible is that I was born out of the closet. I can't go in the closet. I was born out of the closet, so I really didn't have much of a choice, and I'm fine with that. I'm definitely comfortable and confident in myself and what I do. I'm just doing me.

What was it like for you writing Hedonism? It's technically your debut record even though you already have a huge following and five critically-acclaimed mixtapes under your belt.

A lot of red wine and a whole lot of scandals basically. I really go with my gut. I come from a writing background so I heavily edit always, so I feel like I know when it's hot because it tells me it's hot. But I'm constantly going back, refreshing, editing, and I don't know if it's done until I record it. I was traveling for two months in Europe writing the record and then I came back to New York and finished it off and recorded it at Red Bull. I was doing a lot of traveling, a lot of schmoozing, a lot of drinking and enjoying the transition from age 24 to 25 and then the end process was from 25 to 26, which was a really transformative two-year period.

The animated lyric video for "New Phone (Who Dis)" is so cool. How did it come together? Were you a kid that was always into cartoons?

Yeah. I wasn't really a kid that was down to go outside a lot so I was definitely in my grandma's room watching cartoons and drawing and writing and doing creative things. I've always loved animation and me and my manager have talked for a while about doing an animated video. I reached out to Red Bull Academy--I'm one of their Sound Select artists--about doing a video and they collaborated with me. I brought in Ben Clarkson, an illustrator, to put together the video and then we decided to reach out to Adult Swim to premiere it. I've always loved Adult Swim.

"New Phone (Who Dis)" speaks to anyone who has gone through a breakup or deleted someone toxic from their lives. The number one thing I've learned about relationships and dating is if you haven't heard from him, if he hasn't texted you, then he's not thinking about you, boo boo. Next!

Right! I mean and that whole thing is definitely--it definitely has a double meaning. It's about the whole phone situation when you move on from someone and they're still trying to come back into your life, but it's also the whole thing of I'm a different person and I'm not going to allow you to treat me the same way. For me it was about realizing my worth and realizing I'm not going to keep getting treated like shit because that's not my brand.

Speaking of acknowledging your self worth I saw that you recently took yourself out on a date to Miss Lily's Jamaican Diner in New York.

Right! Oh my god, stop! It was so good. Are you familiar with Miss Lily's?

Uhhh, yes.

I legitimately had two Dark 'N' Stormys--you know about the Dark 'N' Stormy, right?

I sure do!

I had two Dark 'N' Stormys. I had the pepper shrimp. I had the jerk chicken. Child, I was carrying.

That sounds so good. I love the idea of being single and taking yourself out on a date. Do you think that's something that people in their 20s should learn to do more?

Yeah, that self-love, that's everything. Because I feel like for me that was one of the things --I've always been very into myself and very confident, but especially in my career I'm always being judged. I'm always being picked at or having to explain things. This career is very all about being judged. So for me I do cherish those moments where I could just go, sit down, have a cocktail and just enjoy it, you know?

What's next for you?

Going on tour for the next two months, promoting the record and, you know, making out with different boys in different countries.

Find Cakes Da Killa's tour dates here.

Madison Moore is a London-based pop culture critic. Follow him on Instagram @madisonmooreonline.

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