CupcakKe

CupcakKe may be famous for her eyebrow-raising lyrics about sex and sexuality, but even her earliest songs like "Pedophile" and the electro-infused LGBTQ anthem "LGBT" have showcased an artist with near-boundless thematic and stylistic range. The Skittles-tinged 20-year-old continues to display that versatility on the sonically kaleidoscopic Ephorize, a striking blend of pop sensibilities, gritty lyrics and blunt self-help advocacy. The raunchy project solidifies her status as one of hip-hop's most idiosyncratic voices.

Known primarily for her colorfully absurdist sexual humor, CupcakKe begins Ephorize with an uncharacteristic seriousness on "2 Minutes." Over reflective piano keys, the Chicago native delivers some motivational verses with frontline, trap-certified grit that would sound at home on Meek Mill's Wins & Losses. "Feel undefeated when you at your weakest/Like you cannot beat this and go/That ain't your friend if he walking with money/While you sitting hungry, that's cold," she spits on the blistering Def Starz-produced track.

The playful, neon-colored CupcakKe that fans know and love returns in the two succeeding songs, "Cartoons" and "Duck Duck Goose," albeit with vastly differing flows. The former is a more traditional, hammering drill track that finds her firing off a barrage of flamboyant, quick-witted flexes in an impressive display of breath control. The latter features a synthy, pop-infused instrumental, the sound of CupcakKe's mock orgasms and the brand of cartoonish sexuality that thrust the ascendant Windy City artist into the spotlight two years ago. "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," she spits, a nod to the For the Dick Challenge.

With their surging beats, menacing bars and relentless confidence, songs like the "Cinnamon Toast Crunch" and "Navel" prove CupcakKe can make tracks as aggressive in tone as any of her Chicago counterparts—with the added flair of over-the-top one-liners that might make Action Bronson's seem tame. On the other hand, cuts like "Exit" and the EDM-infused "Total" show she's also got the crossover hit-making capabilities of Nicki Minaj or Ariana Grande. She imagines her ideal relationship on the latter: "Not trying to pressure the man, I just want someone steady/Make my toes curling 'round but saving me from a pedi/Speaking of petty, I ain't watching Netflix and chill/I wanna go to the movies, man, show me it's real." It's a far cry from the passionless fling she describes on "Single While Taken" and another example of how CupcakKe's perspective can keep you guessing.

While few tracks on Ephorize are as rooted in overt sexuality as the aforementioned "Duck Duck Goose," CupcakKe weaves similarly explicit imagery throughout the album, and it almost never loses its shock value. It even pops up on "Crayons," an LGBTQ-advocating track that showcases her chameleon-like ability to adapt to any beat she touches—this one pulls from reggaeton with its club-ready drums and spurts of pungent horns. The song also reflects CupcakKe's occasionally lazy songwriting; it feels as if she came up with the hook in just a few minutes. While that song is redeemed by its high energy and repetition, the drill-infused "Wisdom Teeth" is disappointingly straightforward without the benefit of being catchy.

Despite occasional bouts of underwhelming songwriting, Ephorize is a standout showcase of emphatic cuts laid over a wide variety of sound beds, perfect for pervs and prudes alike to bang.

See New Music Releases for January 2018