cupcakKe Ephorize

[Self-Released; 2018]

Styles: drill concrète, fractured dancehall, hardcore sex
Others: Lil’ Kim, Missy Elliott, Mykki Blanco

Profanity, especially in art, has an unusual, two-pronged appeal: grossly, profanity is socially taboo; radically, profanity connotes temporality. Profanity by nature is pervasive, yet even in profane spaces, blurting out profanities risks provoking language and morality policing. This is why Chicago rapper Elizabeth Harris, professionally dubbed cupcakKe, is as shocking as she is relatable; this shit is all commonplace, but it is also — if not novel — avant-garde in its own ostensible unspeakableness. Even Chief Keef on his unexpectedly vulnerable and complexly layered mixtape, Thot Breaker, admits that he, in actuality, “can’t eat it like groceries.” Meanwhile, cupcakKe is engaged in her own toothsome wordplay:

“I thought I came, but I peed on the dick
Pubic hair got inches, that’s weave on the dick
Pussy like a tree, it got leaves on the shit
Bang bang this pussy, Chief Keef with the dick”

What crucially separates cupcakKe from beat-driven drill artists like Keef and “edgy” hardcore rappers like Tyler, The Creator circa Goblin is that cupcakKe has always been about queering profanity, and on Ephorize, which boasts her most diverse and highest quality production courtesy of Def Starz, she is ultimately profaning queerness and normalizing difference by turning taboo expressions into irresistible hooks through recognizable historical and transcontinental modalities. Throughout its 15 tracks, cupcakKe explores styles as disparate as New Orleans bounce (“Duck Duck Goose”), drill concrète (“Wisdom Teeth”), fractured dancehall (“Crayons”), flute-sampling hardcore (“Navel”), bossa nova (“Fullest”), and more.

Lyrically, cupcakKe hasn’t sacrificed any of her raw playfulness on Ephorize, and her one-liners are still as pointed as they are hilarious: “A lot of mo’fuckas full of shit, so you know they walk around poopin’” (“Cartoons”); “Lesbian, gon’ head and eat it/ Get the dildo and Michael Jackson - ‘Beat It’” (“Crayons”); “Relax me with massage, park your dick in my garage (Skrrrt!)/ Do not touch my booty hairs, man, I’m feeling like Solange (uh-oh!)” (“Spoiled Milk Titties”). But as on every cupcakKe album, there are moments of introspection here that don’t just balance out her crasser lines, but cast them as crucially sexually progressive. On “Self Interview,” she interrogates her own attitudes toward herself and her personal choices while also exposing double standards that systematically push femme-identified people into violent situations, and in a metacritical aside, she contends, “And most people already skipped this song ‘cause it ain’t about sex and killin.’”

Ephorize is cupcakKe’s most polished statement both sonically and conceptually, yet ultimately, applauding cupcakKe for accessing improvements on her formula for critiquing social attitudes and celebrating sexual diversity risks erasing Queen Elizabitch’s place in our cultural imagination, where along with Number 1 Angel and Pop 2, it remains a timely solace from state-sanctioned violence. It is critical, then, that Ephorize is understood as an extension of this space, functioning like an aperture opening up and letting more light in.

Notably, “ephorize” is an esoteric word meaning “having an absolute, controlling influence over,” and it is essential that cupcakKe’s music secures a space within which listeners can access empowerment and ultimately absolute control over their own bodies. Ephorize, in that respect, is ultimate profanity, a means by which radical self-love and radical inclusion can be realized to their fullest.

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