How Cakes Da Killa Left The Pressure Behind And Found His Freedom
"People are like, 'Oh, now you make house music now,' or 'Oh, you make dance music now,' but for me I’m like 'Fuck it, I’m just going to make the music I wanna make'."
Though a considerable amount of time has passed since Australian fans were last able to connect with Cakes Da Killa in a sweaty club, the memories of his time spent touring out this way have never been far from the rapper’s mind.
Winter marks Cakes Da Killa’s long overdue return to the place where his career as a touring artist first began to take shape. For an American artist to strike up such a pivotal early connection with a country so far away from home is an impressive feat. For an artist like Cakes Da Killa (the artistic moniker of Rashard Bradshaw), responsible for some of the most cutting and provocative bars in the rap game today, establishing himself as he has with fans Down Under proves his legacy-building potential. The fanbase built in Australia is a strong and fiercely loyal one; it’s a fanbase that Cakes Da Killa can’t wait to return to.
“I kinda thought everyone was going to Australia all the time!” he laughs. “People were telling me like, ‘No it doesn’t always happen,’ I felt like I was going to Australia a lot. For me, it’s nostalgic because it’s the place where my career as a touring artist started. It’s always been great and I can’t wait to get down there. It’s going to be my first time in New Zealand too.”
The 2022 Cakes Da Killa run includes stops in Sydney and Hobart for Vivid Sydney and Dark MOFO respectively, before taking on a debut headline date in Auckland and returning to wrap it all up with shows in Brisbane and Melbourne.
The time spent away has seen the continued evolution of Cakes Da Killa as a musical artist and overall consumer and lover of art. Between 2020 and 2021, Cakes Da Killa landed a strong one-two punch with the release of two EPs in MUVALAND and MUVALAND, Vol. 2. Like his debut album Hedonism (2016), the music is gloriously visceral and powerful.
Cakes Da Killa made a name early for himself not just for his lyrical and technical prowess, but his fearless attitude when it came to blending traditional rap sounds with fresh EDM and house influences; following in the footsteps of artists like Mykki Blanco and Le1f.
“I think I have the blessing to be able to say I write all of my own music,” Cakes Da Killa adds. “A lot of people don’t have that privilege. I think my songwriting has become a lot better. If you just take that creative growth and being a bitch that just don’t give a fuck… I just stick to what I like and what influences me. I’m not so much tapped into what everyone else is doing.”
The desire to shift the cultural dial with music that remains intrinsically true and honest to his life and experiences is threaded beautifully through the whole Cakes Da Killa catalogue, most recently seen with 2021’s Killa Essentials record. The album, nine tracks of quickfire, trunk-rattling tunes, cemented Cakes Da Killa’s formidability as an artist and powerful figure of black excellence. As he reflects on his creative process, the development of Cakes Da Killa has always been built on a natural drive to eschew the labels that mainstream industry attached to him early and instead carve out a space all his own.
“I really didn’t know that I would be maneuvering through these channels,” he remembers. “I actually thought I was going to end up doing what you’re doing, I thought I was going to be a journalist for a living! It then became a career, where a lot of outsiders’ opinions forced me to… I don’t wanna say filter myself… but when you make a product, you get reviews. I never considered myself a ‘queer rapper’, but that was the label that was put on me. I just ran with it.”
The pressure on him to succeed and push forward was considerable and became something he had to confront before he could move into the next phase of his career.
“There definitely was pressure coming from the fact that I was doing something for fun, that started becoming a career,” he says. “I ended up having to be like, ‘Wait a minute. I have to take it back to the basics and remember where I started from because that’s where I was having the most fun’.
“I never considered myself a ‘queer rapper’, but that was the label that was put on me. I just ran with it.”
“I think as I’ve progressed in my career, and in my most present form as of today, I’m not in a place where I’m making music and I’m filtered. I just make the music that I want. A lot of times people are like, ‘Oh, now you make house music now,’ or ‘Oh, you make dance music now,’ but for me I’m like ‘Fuck it, I’m just going to make the music I wanna make’.”
This general ‘fuck it’ attitude kicked into gear with the onset of the pandemic and the immediate effects of having our sense of normalcy ripped away. Release and tour schedules were paused or cancelled. The usual avenues of revenue were no longer reliable. Through it, Cakes Da Killa had to become Rashard the nine-to-fiver, adapting to a work-life he hadn’t been used to, all the while still pursuing the hunger for artistry that has always existed within. And out of this time, we’ve received some of his most determined and engaging art to date, in the MUVALAND EPs and his semi-autobiographical short film, Visibility Sucks.
“The lesson that I learned from dealing with the pandemic is that the whole concept of having multiple streams of income is so essential!” he laughs. “I’ve gotten to work the other parts of my brain: I’ve been able to put out a short film that I wrote, that features a lot of music that is on MUVALAND, Vol 2. I think that whole process was really cathartic.
“I was working [also] a 9-5 and doing that, which I wasn’t used to. It comes with the hustle. I was also very productive throughout the whole pandemic. I dropped two mixtapes, I knew I just had to keep motivating myself. I hoped that it would work. And it has done so far!”
Sosefina Fuamoli is a Samoan-Australian music writer and content producer living on Wurundjeri land. You can find her on socials @sosefuamoli.
Photo Credit: Ebru Yildiz