She hasn’t grabbed as many headlines as her more famous (and one might argue, more radio-friendly) peers, but CupcakKe has had one hell of a 2018. Kicking things off in January with an album (the excellent Ephorize) and touring extensively have kept her name hot, even without a blockbuster single or feature to her name. An opening gig on Iggy Azalea’s eventually-canceled tour might’ve raised her profile, but given Azalea’s history of cultural appropriation, getting off that billing was a blessing in disguise. How the unfamiliar crowd members would take her hilarious and raunchy rhymes is up for debate, but Eden, CupcakKe’s shows she doesn’t care to compromise her vision for anyone.

It’d be a mistake to just chalk her success up to her bawdiness, though. While CupcakKe’s might’ve gotten on people’s radar with song titles like ‘Deepthroat’ and ‘Cumshot,’ she’s stuck around because she actually has things to say, whether it’s talking about her sexual proclivities or her upbringing in Chicago’s South Side. Best of all, she really knows how to rap. “Ten different flows when I rap,” she boasts on the single-verse opener, ‘PetSmart.’ While I wasn’t counting, her ability to switch up flows is just as vital as her ability to write lines like “His bread gone like an empty pizza box.”

It might seem strange to call CupcakKe conservative, especially when she’s rapping things “Spill a bitch brains, look like raspberry cheesecake,” but the songs on Eden tend to follow the same formula: alternating verses and choruses. That’s a tried and true method for a reason, but her hooks tend to be limited to repeating the song titles as if repetition is the one and only means of creating an earworm. Her chanting of "Starbucks" and "Prenup" might be trying to get you hype, but they end up just sounding like filler. Part of why the opener works so well is that the lack of a chorus means her barbs (”I spent 13K on some Gucci/He spent thirteen dollars on your coochie”) can be completely unadulterated.

Speaking of unadulterated, this might be CupcakKe’s least sexual offering to date, with only three songs explicitly about sex (‘Garfield’, ‘Blackjack’ and ‘Typo’). She’s not being Puritanical on the other tracks, (“I told him spell my name with his tongue, That's Akeelah and the Bee”) but she seems conscious of not just having a singular reputation, not that she doesn’t still give it her all in regards to more sensual material. (“Cherry in the hole, look like the logo of Target/Twat full of juice so you know that I'm chargin’”)

She also might just have too much else on her mind. Eden features CupcakKe at her most caustic. “Bitch, I got so many bars that Azealia Banks call me when she needs soap” she offers before conditioning it with “No shade.” On ‘Cereal and Water,’ she’s aiming for social commentary (complete with the clearly Kanye-inspired line “Never had no car so she named her Mercedes”), but the message ends up muddled, covering deadbeat fathers, police brutality, and colorism, among other topics. Her passion is never in doubt, but listening can feel like reading an essay that jumps from topic to topic without the proper regard for transitions.

On ‘Dangled,’ with its early 2000s R&B production, she tries her hand at another relationship strife song. Her tongue is sharp but her words, less so. “I'm already like ‘fuck him,’ like he's some kin to that man Donald Trump.” How she can be so creative to come up with something like “N----s start buggin' after, like old rice, ‘tilI say, ‘K, pop it again, let's go twice’” on one track but end up with something so banal when it comes to a simile involving the POTUS is concerning. Not every line needs to be the perfect double-entendre, but the average Occupy Democrats subscriber could do better than that, let alone someone as talented as CupcaKke.

Everything on Eden more or less works, though it’s a definite step down from Ephorize. That is, until the very end, when she lands on a total disaster with ‘A.U.T.I.S.M.’ I could dedicate a whole review to why this song is so bad. Her heart is in the right place, but intentions and results aren’t always kin. An ode to non-neurotypicals, it ends up pandering and vaguely insulting with lines like “Nothin' weird about 'em, it's just a fucked up view.” She makes sure that people with autism are known as warriors, not victims, but it’s hard to be a warrior when it seems like neurotypical people feel obligated to guide you. (“If they don't accept you for who you is, tell 'em they can swerve like skrrt”). It might be salvageable if the sound wasn’t so off-putting, with a blaring low end and vocals delivered and mixed so aggressively, it’s like she’s demanding her allyship be accepted or else.

Even though it’s one of the weaker releases to date, Eden might be the most important album CupcakKe has made thus far. Her profile has been raised, and she’s well aware of it, figuring out how to stay true to her roots while also not being afraid to branch out. At its best, her confidence and creativity are as fresh as ever. At its worst, it’s still worth deconstructing and discussing.