Not since 2 Live Crew and the early 2000s southern rap movement has an artist so sexually explicit gained major recognition like the Chicago rapper CupcakKe, otherwise known as Elizabeth Eden Harris. From Rolling Stone to Pitchfork, Harris has received acclaim from the upper echelon of today’s music publications.
What started as a simple YouTube upload in 2012 has expanded into two mixtapes, three studio albums, a mild Vine meme, and unlike her predecessors, some of the worst controversy has only resulted in a few videos being removed and re-uploaded on YouTube.
Harris had an unconventional yet, sadly, recognizable upbringing. She spent four years in a homeless shelter, went to school with artists such as Lil Reese and Chief Keef, and started performing poetry since the age of ten. She has taken some of these influences (combined with appreciation of artists such as 50 Cent and Lil Kim) and used them to comment on her surroundings.
Harris’s sound (with the help of two main producers) is a divergence of style that not only reflects the Chicago “drill’’ but, in varying styles of New Orleans “bounce,’’ elements of modern pop electronica and (obviously) trap, though it isn’t the main highlight of Harris’s music. It’s definitely interesting to note the different influences present in her music that bring to mind Three 6 Mafia and other Chicago artists, delivering her raps in the similar rough and speedy style. Her lyrics are an aggressive barrage of wit and vulgarity that showcases both her lyrical skills and her brazen persona.
What isn’t discussed, as often as she’s mentioned, is the more socially oriented material in some of her of songs where she uses the familiar aggression (and shameless presentation) to discuss topics such as pedophilia, racial issues, and domestic violence, just to name a few. Every release from Harris is a clashing between these, seemingly, separate personas that come together under the same relentless delivery.
Amazingly, all of her material (to date) has been independently released. She is a result of a trend of rising musicians who go outside of the record label machine to pursue their careers. As CupcakKe has definitely shown promise in the industry (even the small recent YouTube incident has brought her just more light from major publications) it will be interesting to see how her sound will evolve, if she’ll keep up her larger than life persona, and what she’ll do with her rising fame in regard to her political opinions.