When British pop phenom Charli XCX announced the release of last month’s mixtape Number 1 Angel, she debuted three songs on BBC Radio 1—including “Lipgloss,” which features Chicagoan Elizabeth Harris, who raps as Cupcakke. Plenty of local MCs broke out nationally last year, but Cupcakke’s rise might have been the most anomalous—in part because she didn’t benefit perceptibly from Chance the Rapper’s gravitational pull. Her absurdly raunchy raps are likewise far afield from Chicago’s current strains of street rap, but Cupcakke has explained to the Fader that her “freaky records” share that subgenre’s drive to push things to extremes. To say Cupcakke doesn’t leave much to the imagination shortchanges her creativity—when it comes to rapping about sex, her imagination seems boundless.
Part of what I appreciate about “Lipgloss” is that Cupcakke bends her bombastic, hard-edged rapping to fit Charli’s glossy, sugary pop. Though Cupcakke has developed an instantly recognizable persona—I can’t think of anyone else in hip-hop who’s compared her private parts to a honey-covered Winnie the Pooh—she’s got more than one gear. Last week Cupcakke self-released her first album of the year, Queen Elizabitch, and the most arresting song isn’t about sex but about body positivity. Atop the tropical house beat of “Biggie Smalls,” she raps straightforwardly about loving yourself whether or not you fit society’s beauty standards: “Shit, I could be thin or overweight, won’t bother me / I’m still choose Burger King over broccoli.”