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As this year winds down we’ve recapped its highlights to bring you the best of 2018 in fashion, sneakers, music, movies and more.

It’s unclear whether or not cupcakKe has yet achieved her goal of sucking 100K dicks (as expressed on her Twitter bio), but the 21-year-old rapper still has plenty of accomplishments to celebrate in 2018: she’s released not one but two full-length albums, earned critical acclaim from major publications, and continued to give love, joy, and even financial support to her ever-growing legion of fans, the ‘slurpers.’ Yet despite her stellar year – and the articles declaring that women in rap are finally being embraced – the Chicago native remains criminally slept-on. Casual fans might recognize her raunchy bars on viral hits like “Deepthroat,” “Vagina,” and the gloriously filthy “CPR,” but there’s real depth to be found in her back catalog – and no, that’s not a euphemism.

Although cupcakKe’s albums are mostly packed with sex jokes and hilariously dirty metaphors, her pen game is famously versatile. In just a few years she’s mastered the ability to switch from period sex and body-positivity to police brutality and institutional racism in a matter of seconds: “Y’all beat us and treat us so rotten/ still think we slaves, we just not picking cotton,” she raps on “Picking Cotton,” a standout track from her 2016 album Audacious. Similar lyrics about the criminalization of black youth and racial dogwhistle politics appear frequently in her discography, whereas on cuts like “Cereal and Water” she gets personal about her own experiences of colorism (“crazy how y’all pit blacks against each other/ ‘you too dark for blonde hair, look at your skin color’”).

These lyrics are less likely to trend than her jokes about using cum as a teeth-whitener, but they’re there and they’re vital. Her willingness to advocate for minorities is a core factor in her cultural impact, yet her lyrics never feel tokenizing or engineered for commercial gain. While the last few years have seen some stars ‘pinkwash’ their personas by making superficial nods to inclusivity for commercial gain, cupcakKe genuinely practices what she preaches. Alongside the tracks like “LGBT,” which openly celebrates a community which has embraced her very fondly, there are records of her reaching out to gay fans whose homophobic parents have kicked them out and offering them accommodation.

Heartwarming stories like this are only possible because cupcakKe retains full control of her social media. She writes her own crude jokes and puns (‘tickets’ become ‘dickets’), but she also embraces its potential by creating a real connection with her fanbase. Big cash giveaways aren’t uncommon, and sometimes her posts are shockingly transparent – so much so that when she opened up about her struggles with depression earlier this year fans grew panicked by her subsequent social media silence. She cares for her slurpers, and the slurpers care for her.

Introspective tracks like “Self Interview” only add to this appeal, offering a glimpse into the life of a 21-year-old growing up in a notoriously harsh industry. Her circumstances are unique, but her struggles – mental health, body image, navigating adulthood more generally – are often painfully relatable. When Azealia Banks cruelly mocked her for wearing a mesh T-shirt, she responded and then posted screenshots of an Instagram conversation in which Banks advised her to get a boob job. “You would crush it with some nice tits selling that sex shit,” she wrote, but cupcakKe replied that she didn’t give a fuck. “I’m comfortable in my skin,” she concluded.

Conversations like these are exemplary of the high standards forced onto women, and cupcakKe calls bullshit on them constantly. “Instagram hoes shouldn’t be y’all goals/ Look past the post, she photoshopped her rolls,” she rapped last year on “Biggie Smalls,” which also saw her take aim at Eurocentric beauty ideals and the dangerous habits they can fuel. Her own weight loss has been well-documented online, but she’s quick to remind fans that there’s no correlation between dress size and self-esteem. “Size 7 or 11, I’ma still be a hottie,” she summarizes. It shouldn’t be the case, but this is still a radical message in and of itself, and it’s one which adds a layer of importance to her sex-positive rhymes.

The pussy jokes and sex brags aren’t the most important part of the conversation, but they’re obviously the icing on the cupcakKe (sorry!). This year her filthiest rhymes reached new levels of creativity – in the past 12 months alone she’s compared her vagina to Garfield (a fat cat, get it?), cum to cake batter, and sucking dick to ‘duck duck goose,’ a childhood game which spawned one of her biggest hits. “I was sucking a penis,” she explained in an interview, “and I’m like, ‘Hmm, what if I started tapping the head of his penis? And play duck, duck goose with it? But I was like, ‘You know what? I’m not going to do it, I’m gonna save that for my song.” The resulting track is a high-octane banger which continues her legacy of iconic lyrics.

These lines are light-hearted, delivered with the wit and self-awareness that make cupcakKe so easy to love. But in 2018, they’re also political, even if they aren’t meant to be. This year has seen an unprecedented crackdown on sex workers, with laws like FOSTA pushing them offline and onto the streets where they’re disproportionately likely to be abused or exploited. Society stigmatizes sexuality. It treats discussions of sex, especially those helmed by women, as immoral and fundamentally wrong. This is obviously nothing new – artists like Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown had to battle this same tide of conservatism when they were coming up – but cupcakKe takes a different approach by tackling it with a sense of humor.

This approach is important, because we’ve seen what happens when we attach shame to sex. Countless women have stayed silent after being abused by men in positions of power, and it’s no surprise – global rape conviction rates are still shockingly low, and the women courageous enough to speak up risk being doxxed (having their private information spread maliciously online) or subjected to the kind of intrusive questioning which treats their underwear as evidence. That’s not to argue that cupcakKe can single-handedly change this – that would be ridiculous. But the more we welcome sex-positive stars and allow women to claim autonomy over their own sexuality, the closer to a solution – or at the very least an honest, unfiltered discussion – we’ll be.

Until this happens, people need to stop underestimating cupcakKe. Her tongue-in-cheek lyrics seemingly lead to people being automatically skeptical of her skills, with one internet forum user earnestly asking: ‘Is cupcakKe good?’ The truth is that she’s not just good, she’s game-changing. Not only is she a skilled lyricist with sharp delivery, she’s tackling crucial issues in her music and advocating for the rights of those that need it the most. She’s more than just a meme or a really great cum joke; with every month that passes, cupcakKe is proving herself as one of the most selfless, uncompromising artists we have right now.

Stay tuned for more year end content. In the meantime, check out our 10 Best Music Videos of the Year.

Words by Jake Hall
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