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Review: Cupcakke – “Ephorize”

Twenty-year-old rapper Cupcakke, born Elizabeth Harris, is a product of the social media age. She makes outwardly erotic music, first garnering attention in 2015 via the viral music videos for her songs “Vagina” and “Deepthroat,” she affectionately refers to her growing, and largely online, fandom as “slurpers” and her tweets are a continuous stream of photos with hilarious, raunchy captions that build upon that fandom and her brand every day.

But Cupcakke is far from a gimmick, and in an age where social media usage and brand portrayal is strategized and analyzed with precision like never before, her sex and body positivity not only feels genuine, but liberating and necessary.

The Chicago rapper’s latest effort, “Ephorize,” is her third record, following last year’s impressive, yet flawed “Queen Elizabitch.” “Ephorize” is a technical improvement upon her previous work, and further evidence of her potential as a unique and powerful voice in hip-hop.

Cupcakke’s raw talent lies in her compelling, forceful voice and her ability to deliver ludicrously funny zingers relentlessly and without flinch. On “Ephorize” highlight “Duck Duck Goose,” she burns through the verses like a Rolodex of sex puns, culminating in a ridiculously catchy hook, fitting and expanding upon her well-established anthem-making formula.

Though sex positivity is front and center in her music and personality, Cupcakke is not just interested in absurdist one-two punches of dirty jokes, as she also comments on the culture around her. “Crayons” is her declaration of allyship to the queer community, akin to her song “Lgbt” from her first record “Audacious” thematically, though with clear, tangible improvement from then to now.

Much of her fanbase is made up of young, queer people, and while Cupcakke’s references to the community throughout the track borderline on stereotypical, like in the mention of her “gay stylist,” it’s genuinely touching to see an artist prioritize making a political statement through her music that directly concerns the people that support her, while also seeking a real connection with them.

The front half of the album is stellar, but at 15 tracks the record starts to feel a bit overlong by the end. Thankfully Cupcakke’s bars don’t let up, though some of the production retreats to the uninteresting synth and trop-pop beats that plagued “Queen Elizabitch.”

While her second album was still solid, Cupcakke’s biggest highlights of 2017 were her features on both of Charli XCX’s mixtapes, guesting on “Number 1 Angel’s” “Lipgloss” and “Pop 2’s” “I Got It.” Hearing Cupcakke rap over the experimental sounds Charli has further delved into as her ties to the innovative PC Music have gotten stronger showed the true potential the rapper’s artistry will prove as she continues to expand her sound.

The second single from “Ephorize,” “Cartoons,” is the track most clearly influenced by those PC Music collaborations. The industrial track has the best beat on the album, produced by her longtime collaborator Turreekk, who along with Def Starz has the only production credits on the record. It’s a welcome evolution for her sound as she dips her feet into something a bit more sonically ambitious, and encouraging that she’ll continue to work adjacent to PC Music.

“Ephorize” is a testament to the art and communities so deeply rooted in the internet. Cupcakke is fearless, funny and undeniably talented all while staying loyal to the values of inclusive spaces established online. Take her seriously, she’s not going anywhere.

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