IN A WORLD GOING THROUGH MORE CHANGE THAN EVER, HISTORY UNFOLDS AROUND US WITH THE RISE OF CAKES DA KILLA TALKING PRIDE, BLM AND LOOKING TO THE FUTURE.
QUAZAR INTRODUCES OUR FIRST DIGITAL PRIDE COVER STAR, CAKES DA KILLA. TALKING LIFE DURING A PANDEMIC, THE CREATIVE PROCESS BEHIND HIS UPCOMING EP AND THE BLACK LIVES MATTER MOVEMENT
COVER PHOTOGRAPHED BY WOUTER VAN GENS
OTHER IMAGES TAKEN BY ERIC JOHNSON
INTERVIEWED BY CHARLIE LONG
Merging house with hip-hop, spitting rapid-fire tongue twisters and breaking down barriers within the industry, Cakes Da Killa is the New Jersey born rapper on the cusp of his long-awaited EP; ‘MUVALAND’. Killa has acquired a large and loyal following over his decade spanning career, with a variety of mixtapes including ‘The Eulogy’ and his most notable work, his LP ‘Hedonism’. Whilst living in lockdown, the iconic rapper has been planning his triumphant return to music with his upcoming EP and he blessed us with a taste of it on his new single ‘Don Dada’.
The track feels like a fresh start for the songwriter, full embracing house music as an artist who has reached their fully realised creative prowess. Whilst Cakes Da Killa has immerged himself in house and dance in his previous creative ventures, ‘Don Dada’ shows that the artist is no longer tied to the binaries of hip-hop and has taken the leap into new realms of his musical journey. It will be interesting to see what more Cakes has in store for us on ‘MUVALAND’.
“I was hesitant about releasing the project for this reason then I reminded myself that artistic expression is even more essential during turbulent times. As an artist, my voice is the least I can contribute. Whether you listen to this in your living room to lose yourself for just a moment or blast it in your headphones before facing the day, please: stay safe, stay strong and stay true”
MUVALAND’ will be his first release since his 2016 debut album ‘Hedonism’. It was produced in the first couple of weeks of quarantine in the US by producer Proper Villains and is rooted firmly in-house music. In light of the recent Black Lives Matter movement, Cakes reveals he was unsure whether now was the right time to release his music but realised, as a black queer artist, music is what we need most right now during these times. “I was hesitant about releasing the project for this reason then I reminded myself that artistic expression is even more essential during turbulent times. As an artist, my voice is the least I can contribute. Whether you listen to this in your living room to lose yourself for just a moment or blast it in your headphones before facing the day, please: stay safe, stay strong and stay true”
Cakes joined us to talk more about the importance of the Black lives matter movement, his mental health during lockdown and why it is important for publications to take responsibility for using sexuality and identity for clickbait with musicians.
What has the lockdown experience been like for you both mentally and creatively?
The lockdown experience for me has given me time to implement regiment into my life, I am using my time in a different way, being more mindful of the 24 hours we have in a day and using this experience to not only work on my craft but to also go back and re-discover older creative outlets and work on those such as reading and writing. It’s been a positive experience for me in those ways as I have had more time with myself and my creativity.
We are currently living through the biggest global protests in history with the incredible Black Lives Matter movement, how are you feeling, as a black man and what are you doing to navigate your way through social media where so many bigoted opinions exist?
I am a black man, I have lived in this skin for almost 30 years, this is nothing new to me. This is my reality. Thanks to social media, it is now being put on the main stage, but for me it’s been a little overwhelming for me to log on and be bombarded with murder after murder of other black people but you know ,these cases of, I don’t even want to call them police brutalities, they’re murders, need to be given a platform and I am so proud of this movement. It has just been overwhelming at times on social media with the more graphic content.
That's understandable, it's difficult when videos and the more graphic content can just appear without trigger warning. I know music has definitely been a saving grace for you with your new single, ‘Don Dada’, which feels like a new sound for you, as you said, you decided to bring in the house element because you feel that’s what is missing from the music scene right now, why did you feel it was important to release such feel-good dance music right now, especially when I know you were hesitant to?
Well, always as an artist first, I feel the least we can do is contribute our music and our voices at turbulent times. For me, this music isn’t necessarily a ‘new sound’ as I have always dabbled in dance and house music, I just feel now I am fully immersing and encompassing myself in house because I was tired of the same conversations and being so strictly engulfed in the world of Hip-hop, even though I love it, I love so many more genres of music as well. I felt I had reached a wall with the whole landscape of that genre with it not really fitting my morals anymore, creative morals.
You have also of course been working on your new record, “MUVALAND”, what 3 things would you say we can expect that perhaps we weren’t expecting?
Honestly, I don’t think there will be anything that people won’t be expecting, I am and always have been transparent with my art and who I am as an artist. You can expect the same lyricism, the same boomin’ beats that I’m known for and I think listeners will be happy to hear growth from me and from my art. That’s what this record is all about for me.
Speaking on your growth, since the start of your career in 2011, it is obvious you’ve grown and evolved a lot, from your music to your visuals to your lyrical content – how would you say you’ve changed and grown the most?
Right, to be honest, I feel I am reverting back to how I was at the beginning of my career during this era because I am no longer basing any of my creative moves off of what’s popular in the music industry or what’s ‘trendy’ or ‘palatable’. I am bringing back that ‘no holds barred’ energy that allows me to not give a f*ck and present myself in the most expressive way possible. This is who I am, this is the product, take it or leave it. On the flip side, in the space of that time I have obviously grown into myself more, I am a more asserted artist and I know what I want and what I want to achieve, and I feel my music now definitely reflects that, more than ever now I’m bringing back the energy I had as a beginner.
Not giving a f*ck is the best way to be! (laughs) what are the best and worst aspects of being an independent artist and do you prefer it to being signed with a label?
Both have their pros and cons, I personally like to have my own cake and eat it, no pun intended (laughs) I love having the freedom of an independent artist, especially when it comes to creativity, but you can’t expect to break any records or get any upper hand in the industry without some form of backing so I think artists need to be mindful of having a team and who they select to be in that team because your team really are the make or break for indie artists.
Of course. How do you feel when you are described as a ‘queer artist’ or a ‘gay rapper’ and do these labels empower you or do you feel you are being boxed up?
I think it’s an honour and super empowering, this generation especially has been one of the first to have queer people in mainstream media and it’s nice to be acknowledged and given the credit as being one of the few pioneers that we have within the music industry right now. What needs to be said though, is certain media outlets use sexuality and identity for clickbait and it can often over shadow the quality of my music, I want to be taken seriously as a rapper and an artist, I am a queer artist, but I am a queer artist making quality music.
You have some pretty epic visuals and of course, insane bars, what is your favourite creative process – is it the writing, recording, creating the visuals etc?
I love all elements of the creative process, seriously. If I had to choose, I would say music videos only because I don’t think people really know how much work goes into creating the visuals, like to make a music video and produce it all takes a lot, A LOT of work and it can be really draining, as much I still love doing it.
I know you’ve spoken about a lot in previous interviews such as your one with DJ Vlad, about how you feel as though many people will push that rhetoric of ‘yeah he’s incredible and can seriously spit’ but because he brings in elements of his sexuality into his music, I can’t fuck with it’, that conversation was 3 years ago, would you say this is still something you’re having to deal with today?
Yes and no, I feel like now, I really don’t even entertain those conversations anymore. When you’ve had these conversations for over a decade it begins to feel like you’re just on a loop. I definitely wouldn’t ever shy away from converssations surrounding sexuality though, because people need to be educated but whenever it crosses over into again, over shadowing my talent and my art, I lose the interest to engage because I’ve had these conversations for the last 10 years.
In your music you use a lot of words that are often, shall we say, ‘trigger words’ such as ‘faggot’ – what is it about using these words than you find the most empowering and why do you feel it is important to reclaim language that has been used to hurt our community?
Words are so important and powerful. I love words that people find taboo and I think that’s a big part of my culture and my scene and you know, it is what it is. I love words that give people a reaction and bring a new life to the song, especially when they are words that have been used to hurt me in the past. Saying this however, it is also important to acknowledge some people do find these words offensive and uncomfortable and I respect that, for me it’s just about ownership and owning them but if it’s not for you, that’s fine as well.
It's definitely a sensitive topic and it's good to be mindful. Ownership is definitely super empowering. Looking at your influences, you talk about your major musical influences being The Lox, Missy, Erykah Badu – all artists with huge legacies, what do you want Cakes Da Killa’s legacy to be?
Cakes Da Killa’s legacy is to be a queer pioneer in music. To be known for being an incredible creative person and for just being the baddest bitch. Period.
What advice would you give to a young person who may be struggling to accept their identity?
Be mindful you are living life for yourself, do not play into the mind sets of people who set rules based on their own insecurities and to the people who judge queer people for living their truth, acknowledge that we all go through transitions in our life and you need to deal with your own bullshit before passing judgement on others.
Check out Cake's new single, 'Don Dada' here -