October 07 2016

Songs from a Room: Cakes da Killa at The Standard, Downtown LA

Los Angeles-Standard Sounds
A little ways back, we had the pleasure of playing host to New York MC Cakes Da Killa (a.k.a. Ya Baker’s Man), at The Standard, Downtown LA. With a flow raunchy enough to rival Lil' Kim and a wardrobe to match, Cakes is one of the brightest stars to step out of the New York-centric underground rap scene that’s radically rewriting hip hop’s rulebook. The movement has started to expand its reach from DIY spaces and queer club kids to a significantly broader audience. And while it can be tempting to try to place Cakes within the cultural moment, at the end of the day, he raps as hard and smart and funny as anyone in the game. Watch Cakes and his backup dancers do a raucous, rosé-fueled, late-night performance of “Drop Top,” his banger with DJ Shiftee, and read the interview below. Don’t sleep on his new singles here and here. The mainstream will be calling before you know it.  

THE STANDARD: What first inspired you to start rapping?

CAKES DA KILLA: Well, normally when you go to black high schools, people are always rapping, like in the cafeteria, banging on tables and saying stupid raps. For me, I was always the popular gay kid in high school and I always wanted the attention or whatever, so I'd go over there and fool around, and everyone was like, "You can't do this! You're gay! There's no way you can be gay and rap!" It was more so that challenge, and I wanted to be funny, so it wasn't a career move or anything.
 
What did being the popular gay kid in Englewood, New Jersey entail?
I came out at a really young age, and I was never afraid to just be myself. It wasn't anything too crazy. For me, being out wasn't a Lifetime movie moment. I wasn't dealing with a lot of bullying and negativity because I was really comfortable in myself. I had my little moments here and there, but I'm too big and scary to get too bashed.
 
When did you decide to pursue rapping beyond the lunchroom?
Someone decided for me. When I went to college, I made videos of me rapping over beats just for fun because I didn't want to study for tests, and someone hit me up and was like, "You should come get on this mixtape with me." But I don't think it became a career move for me until I got my first check.

How much contact have you had with ball culture?

Well in New York, if you're black and you're gay you're probably going to go to a ball at least once in your life. My friend MikeQ, who's a really prominent ballroom DJ has a night every Monday at Escuelita, where they throw a lot of balls. I was just there, literally, so drunk. There are way more straight women going to balls than ever, and way more celebrities. It does take away from the culture because a lot of the people who've been there feel like they don't a space anymore. That's the give and take because a lot of these kids want to be in the mainstream, they want to finally get recognition, but they have to forfeit some of the substance. It's kinda depressing, but that’s the nature of the beast.
 
You do a lot of traveling for your job. Do you enjoy it?
I always wanted to travel. When I was younger my mom would always say, "We should go on trips," but I never had a job and my mom's a single parent so I always fel

THE STANDARD: What first inspired you to start rapping?

CAKES DA KILLA: Well, normally when you go to black high schools, people are always rapping, like in the cafeteria, banging on tables and saying stupid raps. For me, I was always the popular gay kid in high school and I always wanted the attention or whatever, so I'd go over there and fool around, and everyone was like, "You can't do this! You're gay! There's no way you can be gay and rap!" It was more so that challenge, and I wanted to be funny, so it wasn't a career move or anything.
 
What did being the popular gay kid in Englewood, New Jersey entail?
I came out at a really young age, and I was never afraid to just be myself. It wasn't anything too crazy. For me, being out wasn't a Lifetime movie moment. I wasn't dealing with a lot of bullying and negativity because I was really comfortable in myself. I had my little moments here and there, but I'm too big and scary to get too bashed.
 
When did you decide to pursue rapping beyond the lunchroom?
Someone decided for me. When I went to college, I made videos of me rapping over beats just for fun because I didn't want to study for tests, and someone hit me up and was like, "You should come get on this mixtape with me." But I don't think it became a career move for me until I got my first check.

How much contact have you had with ball culture?

Well in New York, if you're black and you're gay you're probably going to go to a ball at least once in your life. My friend MikeQ, who's a really prominent ballroom DJ has a night every Monday at Escuelita, where they throw a lot of balls. I was just there, literally, so drunk. There are way more straight women going to balls than ever, and way more celebrities. It does take away from the culture because a lot of the people who've been there feel like they don't a space anymore. That's the give and take because a lot of these kids want to be in the mainstream, they want to finally get recognition, but they have to forfeit some of the substance. It's kinda depressing, but that’s the nature of the beast.
 
You do a lot of traveling for your job. Do you enjoy it?
I always wanted to travel. When I was younger my mom would always say, "We should go on trips," but I never had a job and my mom's a single parent so I always felt bad asking her to pay for everything. So I always told her, "No, someone else will pay for me to travel." I remember getting my passport and the next month I got a gig in Australia. Going from airplanes to hotel rooms to soundchecks isn't glamorous, but traveling is definitely something that I like to do.
 
Writer
Miles Raymer