2017 saw the release of a substantial amount of good hip-hop, both in The UK and across The Atlantic. As I analysed some UK based DJ’s top albums of the year lists, I couldn’t help but notice that veteran emcee Big Cakes’ latest album ‘No Excuses’ was missing from most. Granted the album was delivered very late on in the year, but there was still more than enough time for the project to slot into the list of favourites. Not for the sake of it. Not because Big Cakes’ name rings bells across the UK hip-hop community, but because it really does deserve to be included.
The truly seasoned Big Cakes has offered listeners his 7th studio album, hot on the heels of his 2016 “No Expiry” project. This generosity to his fans is an understatement as he shows no signs of slowing down lyrically. The album begins with the Micall Parknsun produced “The Word.” That’s right. The word. Hip-hops forgotten element amidst a flood of inaudible prose from rappers. Wordplay is the main dish on this menu as Cakes flows through with biblical references wrapped up with witty exuberance at a steady double time pace. “It said the word came first I kill em biblically.” I’m in agreement with this, especially seen as the word should be the most important aspect of the hip-hop bible.
“Dots (Don of the Strip),” produced by Oliver Sudden, feels like a strong summer track released in winter. I want to wind down my car window and bump this loud but it’s too cold at the moment. However, as with many Big Cakes’ songs, they survive the seasons so I’m able to bide my time with that one. The survival and longevity of an artist boils down to originality. Cakes has been pumping out product for a long time and up until now he still sounds like no other and no other can sound like him. We can’t deny that every rapper has their influences, someone who came before them, but these influences should be moulded into a style of their own, not simply copying to paste in a separate browser. On the Valiant produced “Duplicates” Cakes explains that he “still represents the real authentic / raw hip-hop ink flows through my pen tip,” and goes on to suggest “certain rappers ain’t real under observation.” In an age where rappers are willing to sacrifice their whole art and craft for fast money by recycling the same sounds and personas, Cakes would rather express his lyrical and personal growth, analysing where he came from to where he has got to. With help from the effortless Don Jaga, with this tune we witness a real maturity in the rhymes. While highlighting continual flaws of other rappers, without sounding preachy, Cakes expresses how he’s nothing special himself and proceeds with an open mind.
On “Money Mayweather (Shina Peters)” Big Cakes reminds us how raw and verbally unhinged he can be, which is staple to his formula and style with fierce energy and aggressive punchlines. If the track was a football pitch, Big Cakes would be slaloming over the turf in an unplayable fashion. Another element to the Big Cakes formula is his storytelling abilities and descriptions of life from street level. “E’s Up,” produced by Syaman, is a moving dedication to loved ones that Cakes has lost along the way. It’s also a breakdown of the struggles people face along life’s journey and trying to survive in a cold world. This song is for anyone who can relate to struggle and pain as he raps “give thanks cause we don’t know how blessed we are.” He then exclaims that “the gift is the present.” So, without dwelling on the past, let’s unwrap all the gifts we’ve been given right now.
Cakes’ voice is unique and delivery always sharp. The Morfius produced “The Good S**t” brings the best out of a laid back yet energetic and always confident Cakes. Here is an artist who can get you out of your seat, wide eyed and alert for a tune which is in your face, then sit you back down again to zone out and relax to a more mellow vibe.
Big Cakes once said if you’re not conscious then you’re unconscious. His assertiveness with this statement is evident all over his tracks, whatever the subject matter is. On Parknsun’s “Toast” beat, he maintains his consciousness with a straight talking, to the point brutality which is key to his verses. “Look up there’s chemtrails in the sky / understand that global warming is a lie.” Always educating the listener, Cakes’ desire to make people more aware of issues that affect us is clear, urging us to “understand there’s less money in the cure / profits from the treatment is more.” Hip-hop was born out of consciousness and Big Cakes has made it his mission statement. Releasing project after project for more than 10 years, there’s evidence of being grown up yet youthfully raw at the same time as he still offers middle fingers to corrupt systems and governments which continue to oppress, lie and dictate how people should be followers instead of individuals. The planet is filled with rappers. They are literally everywhere. Most come and go. Only a few though, can still be this passionate, hungry and hugely dedicated to an artform that refuses to die. Let’s digest this album and eagerly anticipate the next because Big Cakes will not stop the oven from baking.