Cakes, Saint, Love, & Hip Hop
ABOVE: CAKES DA KILLA AND SAINT.
When it comes to the music industry, friendships can be prevented by competitive drive within the forever-evolving domain. But in mid-2013, Los Angeles-based producer Saint and New Jersey-based lyricist Cakes da Killa contacted each other via the internet, then met in real life, became friends, and have been in frequent contact ever since.
Artistically speaking, Saint and Cakes da Killa–whose given names are Virgil Valdez and Rashard Bradshaw, respectively–have worked together on two major occasions. First, on Saint’s track “Sake Bomb” from his latest album that was released late last year, and now again for Cakes da Killa’s “Living Gud, Eating Gud (Suicide Mix),” which we are pleased to premiere below.
Aside from these collaborations, the artists frequently exchange their own creative inspirations, work, and beats, and have each released countless mixtapes, remixed tracks, and features with various artists around the world. Cakes da Killa released Hunger Pangs (Deluxe Edition) this month, while Saint is preparing to drop new music and embark on his first tour in the new year. Between each artist’s worldwide tour and working on new music both together and alone, they took the time to catch up, speak about creative processes, and reminisce on their “Cheesecake Factory moment.” When it comes to music, aspirations, and their love of R&B singer K. Michelle, these two fuck with the same beat. –Christopher Klimovski
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CAKES DA KILLA: [sleepy] Hello?
SAINT: What are you doing?
CAKES DA KILLA: Chillin. I just woke up.
SAINT: You just woke up? It’s 12pm.
CAKES DA KILLA: I don’t go to bed at six like you. [laughs] I love how we gotta do this and we were already supposed to have a Skype date.
SAINT: I know. It saddens me that this is what it’s taken for us to talk to each other. [laughs]
CAKES DA KILLA: How have you been? How long has it been since I last saw you?
SAINT: It’s been almost a year.
CAKES DA KILLA: [laughs] I’m just gagging about how we met.
SAINT: You were randomly in town, right? You were coming back from Australia and you got stuck here in Los Angeles because of the blizzard in New York, and I’m just like, “let’s hang out,” and it went from there.
CAKES DA KILLA: I just remember going to the liquor store, drinking in my hotel room, and then going to a really bad party.
SAINT: Yeah, that you wanted to go to.
CAKES DA KILLA: I wanted to see what L.A. was about.
SAINT: [laughs] It’s not about shit.
CAKES DA KILLA: [laughs] You remember our Cheesecake Factory moment?
SAINT: [laughs] You being in L.A., it started as such an un-planned thing that we had no idea what we were going to do so we ended up going to the Cheesecake Factory. [laughs] You were so mad that you ordered, like, a five course meal and I was eating lemons.
CAKES DA KILLA: [laughs] That’s when I realized we would be great friends, but we were such extremes, complete opposites—me eating this bowl of pasta and shrimp, and you with lemons, making me feel horrible about myself. Also, you yelling at me because I wanted to take leftovers and you were like, “You’re not putting that shit in my car.”
SAINT: That shrimp would have gone foul real quick, especially going to that party afterwards. Imagine dealing with that, then getting back in the car and it smelling like shit. How was the U.S. tour?
CAKES DA KILLA: Oh, the tour was cute. Everything was very cute. I got to meet Rye Rye for the first time, which was something I was excited about. We have a song together that’s coming out. She got on one of my remixes. I wanted to meet with her just to vibe out, because normally I like to vibe out before I make the song. I met her when we did a gig together in L.A. What have you been doing?
SAINT: I don’t even know where to begin. I’ve dropped a ton of material. I’ve put out a full-length album. I’ve done BBC mixes. I did an episode of Diplo and Friends, which was crazy. I didn’t think I’d be doing something like that so soon. That was pretty awesome. I remember when you were on tour you were tweeting about listening to it in the car.
CAKES DA KILLA: See, you were saying I was being mean to you. I was talking you up saying how it was so big. I was so excited. I wanna be on Diplo and Friends.
SAINT: Well you were, you were in that mix.
CAKES DA KILLA: No, I mean I want to be on [it] myself. [laughs] Maybe I’m playing an instrument or something. Was Hunger Pangs out the last time we met?
SAINT: No it wasn’t. You were piecing it together still.
CAKES DA KILLA: So I released it, my follow up mixtape, and I’ve just been touring. Since then I moved to Brooklyn, finally. I was still living with my mother when I was putting it together.
SAINT: What part of the tour did you enjoy the most?
CAKES DA KILLA: Cashing the checks. No, it was a really good experience because it was my first time touring the States. Have you ever gone on a tour before?
SAINT: I’m about to.
CAKES DA KILLA: It’s really good to travel with the material. It was definitely a good experience. I’d been going overseas a lot, so to actually play where people got the references is good.
SAINT: I’m about to go to Europe—which specific cities, I’m not quite sure yet. But I don’t have any plans to change my set. I’ll be playing the same stuff I play here. It’s always a good sampling—remixes of my music that I’ve made specifically for my sets and other people’s music. It’s all across the board. I mean that BBC set was a good gauge of what I sound like live.
CAKES DA KILLA: What sort of crowd are you hoping to see in Europe?
SAINT: I don’t know, [but] I never freak out over shows unless there’s a small amount of people. I don’t like small venues. It weirds me out. Ideal shows for me are a ton of people, because if there’s a ton of people, that’s when I really turn on and enjoy it.
CAKES DA KILLA: To me, I don’t really need a set amount of people in the building. I just need to have people that are engaged. I need people in the space who want to see me, and if they don’t know who I am, then they’re at least appreciative of the show. I would much rather have 30 people who are engaged than a thousand people who aren’t even present. [pauses, laughs] We should just go back and forth and talk about the most ratchet shit that’s happened to us at a show.
SAINT: You want to go first then? I feel like you’ve got more stories than me.
CAKES DA KILLA: Making out with people at shows is always the funniest thing. I guess because I’m an artist who makes really sexual music, people just assume they can stick their tongues down my throat and sometimes it’s really hit and miss.
SAINT: I could never make out with someone at a show. That’s such a foreign concept to me. I’m a prude, though.
CAKES DA KILLA: I forgot how prudish you are when it comes to things like that. [laughs]
SAINT: Extremely. I know grandmas that are freakier than me. I’m so far removed from that.
CAKES DA KILLA: You never had a fan come up and really vie for your attention?
SAINT: I’ve had girls jump on stage and start dancing, but they either stay up there dancing or security handles it, which is always kind of funny.
CAKES DA KILLA: I’ve been prone to kick bitches off stage too. That’s always the fun part of the job. If you could work with one person, who would you work with?
SAINT: I don’t even know. I’m sure you have a list with a ton of people you want to collaborate with.
CAKES DA KILLA: No, I don’t. Every time someone asks me who I want to work with, my answer is always the same: whoever wants to work with me that won’t want to get their ego stroked. With a lot of people you think you want to work with, you reach out to them about working and then realize you don’t want to anymore because they’re a complete dickhead.
SAINT: There are always situations like that, but I feel like you’re taking the question too literally. It’s hypothetical.
CAKES DA KILLA: Well you know that’s always my problem.
SAINT: Yeah you’re difficult.
CAKES DA KILLA: When you worked with me I was not difficult.
SAINT: No you weren’t, [but] I feel like I’m really easy to work with. I feel like if you were to work with another you, it would be a mess.
CAKES DA KILLA: No, because I’ve met people who are way worse than me. When I have to become project manager, I’m very different…But I do like your music. You have your own type of situation.
SAINT: Situation? [laughs] Situation is not a positive word.
CAKES DA KILLA: Okay, how about, “you have your own lane”?
SAINT: No you’ve got to understand. Every time I hear the word situation it reminds me of Love & Hip Hop where they’re talking about a weird date situation.
CAKES DA KILLA: [laughing] You projected your interpretation of the word ‘situation’ on to me. Speaking of situation—what’s your current situation since we’re talking about relationships now for some reason?
SAINT: My current situation is that there is no situation.
CAKES DA KILLA: Oooh! You wifed up?
SAINT: No, the complete opposite of that.
CAKES DA KILLA: Same. I’m free as a bird.
SAINT: I never know what’s going on with you because of your statuses. It’s like three in the morning, you post some shit, and I’m like, “He’s at home listening to Kelly Price crying right now.”
CAKES DA KILLA: Exactly. Or eating, eating a burrito. I’m very transparent. I’m realizing the more and more I’m listening to K. Michelle interviews that I’m very K. Michelle in this situation.
SAINT: That’s why I couldn’t understand why you didn’t like her when I told you about her. Because [when] I’m reading your tweets, they sound like K. Michelle lyrics sometimes.
CAKES DA KILLA: That’s because I was young and dumb, and she was on Love & Hip Hop being ratchet.
SAINT: She’s still on TV being ratchet. That’s why I like her.
CAKES DA KILLA: I am K. Michelle. It’s so funny. The basis for the album she’s putting out is the same basis for this release I’m putting out for Valentine’s Day.
SAINT: You’re doing a Valentine’s Day release?
CAKES DA KILLA: Yeah, because basically me and K. Michelle were in the same situation. I was watching her interview on “The Breakfast Club” [radio show] almost in tears like, “Oh my god. I’m fucking K. Michelle.” [Saint laughs] Would you do reality TV?
SAINT: No. I can’t even tweet.
CAKES DA KILLA: You suck at that. You definitely need to step it up.
SAINT: No, it’s just me. I don’t like transparency. There are certain people that if I knew too much about them, it would ruin it. I wouldn’t want to know what Beyoncé was doing 24/7. It would ruin the mystery. I don’t need to know what they’re eating or when they’re depressed or angry. I don’t like when artists over share. I’m used to pre-internet artists. Pre-TMZ and knowing everybody’s business. I don’t get into my feelings like that.
CAKES DA KILLA: You really don’t. You’re very sterile.
SAINT: That’s actually a really good word for it.
CAKES DA KILLA: I like it though because even though you’re sterile, you don’t come across as cold. You and Mike Q have this thing about you like, “I’m in a club. Get away from me,” but you’re not a cold person.
SAINT: What always appealed to me is that you’re always the hardest one in the New York scene. With Hunger Pangs you were on the personal tip with your honesty vibe, but with a whole mixtape about love seems like a really big shift for you. You’ve always been [like], “You ain’t shit. I’m in Australia being awesome.” How do you go from that to making a mixtape for Valentine’s Day about your feelings and going through it?
CAKES DA KILLA: The music I make is motivating for people to get their shit together. I was sick of people trying to make me a two dimensional character. Like, “Oh, he only talks about sex”—it’s like you don’t really listen to the lyrics. That’s why it’s important for me to put the lyric booklets in my downloads. If you want to know the things I’m touching on, you can read it for yourself…But the remix project Hunger Pangs (Deluxe Edition) came about because I wasn’t really happy with the way Hunger Pangs rolled out, but I really still like the songs. So we reworked them with different producers and will re-release it. As far as the Valentine’s release, which is called In My Feelings, I wanted to show even more of my versatility as a writer. I want to be respected as a writer and, like I said, I was really sick of people saying I was a two dimensional character. I’m getting older and realizing that it can’t always be about the “look at me in Australia” moment. I want more to my legacy, I guess. It’s called #IMF, so all the single people can use that during Valentine’s Day.
SAINT: I’m not a vocalist or a rapper so it’s hard for me to get emotional with stuff.
CAKES DA KILLA: All your stuff is turned up. Would you ever tap into something that was slower or bring in pianos and strings?
SAINT: I have a cover of 3LW’s “No More”—that’s real instruments with piano and stuff—[but] I don’t know if I’d ever put it out. As much as it would be cool to drop 3LW’s “No More” in the club, it just wouldn’t work. Being open to producing for other artists, rappers, and vocalist’s means I can move into spaces like that, and I have done stuff like that for other people. But as far as Saint music, it’s always going to be in the club.
CAKES DA KILLA: The way your beats sound is like how my rap sounds. Like, “Bitch look at me. Fuck you.” I can’t wait to get the backlash for this Valentine’s Day release. Everybody’s going to be gagging because it’s so different.
SAINT: Do you think a lot of people are going to be upset?
CAKES DA KILLA: No, but I know a lot of people will be like “Cakes, you are carrying!”
SAINT: I feel like there’ll still be a “key your car” moment on the release. There’s definitely going to be songs that incorporate what people classify as “old Cakes.” Like a text fight or “I had too many long islands at Cherry Bomb and now I’m just chillin’.”
CAKES DA KILLA: You just know. I really live for your mysterious nature. You and LSDXOXO have that down pack. Like, “I’m here, but I’m really gone.” I’m excited about this year. Are you?
SAINT: I feel like this entire past year has been working towards this coming year. It’s really coming together how I wanted it to. I’m playing with Waka Flocka Flame in like a month. It’ll be a crazy show. It’s like L.A.’s equivalent of Webster Hall. I’m getting big shows like that finally, so I’m really looking forward to this year.
I barely came out of live hiatus in April 2014. I was in a really good space about two years ago and right at the peak of that, my house caught fire and burnt down. I was living in awkward situations, on couches, kind of like a drifter. I completely fell off that year. I didn’t get back into a proper living situation until October 2013. In the year that I fell off, the music landscape completely changed. Music changes so fast and I had seen people who were fans of mine playing EDC and shit. It was completely horrible to live through. In a weird fucked up way, I’m grateful having gone through that though because it took my hustle to the next level.
CAKES DA KILLA: That’s how I felt when I got HOT97. I was like “Yes, I’m a boss ass bitch.” To people who had seen me around for years and who respected my music a little, I was suddenly like the Boy Scout of the Month, a hot topic. But you know, that’s our careers—you get little trophies and then people care, but you have to keep getting trophies or you’ll be forgotten.
SAINT: It’s always been like that. I just feel like the Internet’s sped everything up.
CAKES DA KILLA: I’m used to the era of Madonna and Janet where they had time to actually become a new person.
SAINT: Yeah, back in the day changes weren’t just outfits—they were personality changes, lifestyle changes. But now we’re being forced into a situation where we have to move so fast.
CAKES DA KILLA: The fast pace makes me feel pressured to drop releases, which I’m completely against because managers, agents, and sponsors dictate when you write music, but it’s like, “If you don’t write music, then you can’t tell me what type of speed I should be working at.” They feel like online artists need to put out releases every six months and it’s like, “I’m not gonna be down to write material every six months.” That’s the main pressure.
SAINT: I agree. I’m all about things being organic. I never want to force something.
CAKES DA KILLA: That’s why I hate the media, though. Everything is so fast paced and we try and keep up, and then they’ll be like, “Oh this person can only do one thing,” and then when you branch out they’re like, “Why the fuck are you trying to be creative?”
SAINT: Yeah! That’s exactly how it is. These sites will be the first ones to be like, “Music is so stale,”‘ and it’s like, “Of course it’s stale. You’re putting artists in this uncomfortable position.”
CAKES DA KILLA: How do we finish this interview? [laughs] I’d literally be like, “Okay text a bitch, Skype a bitch, you already know,” and you would have hung up already.
SAINT: [laughs] Yeah, I’d just hang up.