Chicago rapper Cupcakke doubles down on incisive raps that go beyond raunch | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Chicago rapper Cupcakke doubles down on incisive raps that go beyond raunch 

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courtesy the artist

Last year an independent Chicago rapper who found success while making bold, insightful tracks about black life on the city’s south side appeared onstage at Lollapalooza. I could be describing Chance the Rapper, but I’m actually talking about Elizabeth Harris, better known as Cupcakke. Sure, technically Lolla didn’t list her as one of the festival’s acts, but she showed up for Charli XCX’s performance, and according to Tribune critic Jessi Roti, Cupcakke turned out to be the “set savior.” She’s made a career out of hyper-raunchy raps; on last month’s self-released Ephorize she grafts blunt sexuality onto the Smurfs (on “Cartoons”), insects (“Meet & Greet”), and sloppy joes (“Duck Duck Goose”), among other subjects that are generally bereft of eroticism. Cupcakke’s discourse on intercourse has earned her both critical acclaim and fame—98 percent of her 309,000 Twitter followers are real, which is more than three times the number of users Richard Roeper didn’t pay to follow him—but she has no desire to play to a type. Some of her most incisive work is her most personal—on “Reality, Pt. 4,” off last year’s Queen Elizabitch, she delves into her difficult upbringing, rapping “I had a empty fridge would eat me a stale bagel / Thanksgiving Day with only me at the table.” Ephorize opens with the somber “2 Minutes,” on which Cupcakke makes no bones about overcoming adversity, and how both hardship and perseverance have colored her current life: “I done placed so many flowers on different graves / I tell my dates now, don’t bring a rose.” She knows that her refusal to limit herself to any one theme pushes against her audience’s expectations—on “Self Interview” she remarks that most folks have skipped the track because of a lack of sexually explicit raps—but I like to think her fans understand she’s got so much more to give.   v

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