Concert preview: Chicago rapper Cupcakke brings her "Vagina" monologue to MINT

Andy Downing, Columbus Alive

Chicago rapper Cupcakke announced her presence in 2015 with her own extended "Vagina" monologue, a moan-filled, X-rated sexual fantasy that should've been delivered to listeners wrapped in black plastic.

The song also kicked off the 18-year-old MC's debut mixtape,Cum Cake, from 2016, setting up expectations the rest of the album might unfold like a Willy Wonka-esque boat trek through the mind of Larry Flynt. But while the musician occasionally dips into more sexually charged material (see: "Deepthroat," which has zero to do with the Watergate fallout), the bulk of the album finds Cupcakke branching out into subjects like homelessness, police brutality, pedophilia and gun violence, emerging as a fully realized, three-dimensional artist rather than a simple novelty act.

"People were thinking, 'She's so vulgar. She's bold. We're going to get a mixtape that's nasty.' And then they come to find out there are only three songs on the mixtape that are [explicit]," said Cupcakke, born Elizabeth Harris, who teams with Total Freedom for a concert at MINT on Saturday, May 21. "I tried not to put a mixtape out … where every song is about a relationship, or the whole mixtape is about sex or homelessness. No. I try to [tackle] different subjects each time I write."

At times, Cupcakke pens songs inspired by things she's witnessed. Though the rapper has never been profiled by police, she witnessed it on numerous occasions living on Chicago's South Side. Other songs are more explicitly autobiographical. The musician, who was raised by a single mother, spent nearly four years navigating Chicago's homeless shelters starting at age seven, and those years surface in tracks like "Reality Part 2."

"So listen … barely eating, so I thank God for this bite / "No light, food or gas, but I thank God for them nights," she rhymes a cappella. "It's a deep topic," she said, "and even if they gave me a great beat I thought people would be too focused on it [rather than my words]."

Cupcakke's evolution into a bawdy, refuse-to-hold-back presence surprises even the musician, who alternately described herself as "soft spoken" and "really quiet" in her day-to-day.

"When I'm not writing or recording or performing, I'm just normal," said the MC, who got her start performing clean, faith-based, spoken-word poetry in churches like Bread of Life. "People won't get that from me because all they think is 'Cupcakke, Cupcakke, Cupcakke!' But Elizabeth doesn't do that. It's like two characters."

One trait the two do share, however, is a love of writing, which the rapper discussed with a fondness typically reserved for loved ones.

"Writing is … my friend. It's family," she said. "I know it's just words, but it's something close to me. That's how I look at it."


10 p.m. Saturday,

May 21

42 W. Jenkins Ave.,

South Side