Chicago rapper Cuee is ‘Coming Out’ swinging

The artist’s recently released EP, centred on liberation and Pride, is a reintroduction to the world 

There’s something different about Chicago rapper Cuee. Maybe it’s the unique synergy between his Windy City style and the Lawrence, Kansas, community in which he lives. Maybe it’s the fact that when he’s not riding a beat, the independent hip-hop star-to-be gives back to his community as a board member for the Haus of McCoy, a community centre for queer and trans youth where he lives. “Connecting and advocating for my Black trans brothers and sisters is incredible,” says Cuee. “I didn’t have that when I came out.” Yes, there’s something different about Cuee, and his latest project, Coming Out, which he released Friday, is all the proof I need. 

Artist name: Cuee
Age: 29 Pronouns: He/him
Genre: Hip-hop
Sounds like: A mix of LL Cool J and Big Sean
First song you should listen to: “Ain’t Going Back”

Credit: Ailecia Ruscin

Cuee, 29, first gravitated toward music as a child, thanks to his stepfather who was a DJ specializing in house music. He helped spark Cuee’s interest in becoming a rapper. The Chicago, Illinois, native then began writing poetry in fourth grade, and by seventh grade, he was freestyling to his favourite rap songs. “I remember writing my first rap to Jay-Z’s ‘Big Pimpin’.’ That was the first thing I recorded on my little karaoke machine in my room,” he recalls. 

Cuee continued to hone his pen and flow throughout high school in hopes of becoming a better emcee. But music took a back seat when he went to college at the University of Kansas, though his passion remained. “Even though I went to college for mass communications and did all that cool stuff, then got my master’s in higher education, I always knew I wanted to fall back and pursue music,” he says. 

In 2016, Cuee released his first EP, The Evolution of Mixtape, while still in school. It’s a seven-track project that was rough around the edges and felt more like a playlist than a cohesive album. Yet, still, it showcased his promise, and has since proven to be a solid foundation upon which to build. A year later, Cuee released Master’s Cap, a six-track EP all about his experience in grad school. It was an autotune-heavy, pop-centric record, and more cohesive than its predecessor. He recalls, though, a bit of feedback he received about Master’s Cap from his engineer that sparked an evolution in his music: that the EP was hard to connect with because of its limited subject matter. The note reminded Cuee of the ways he’d previously taken things that some might see as a negative and made them a positive, particularly how his accent once made it difficult for some listeners to understand his lyrics. “Being from Chicago, I know [with] my accent some people don’t know what I’m talking about or saying sometimes,” he says, noting that his accent has now become a strength because it allows him to rhyme words that others might not. “So, I can get really creative.”


Over the next few years, Cuee continued dropping singles and doing features for other artists. Then in 2021, he released Gospel, a collection of 10 tracks, including one of my favourites in his entire discography: “Ain’t Going Back.” It’s an up-tempo testimony about appreciating where you are in life, and looking past the obstacles you’ve faced. The track sonically finds inspiration from fellow Chicago emcee Chance the Rapper, tackling its subject matter in an entertaining, digestible way. 

It’s with Cuee’s latest project, though, a new EP entitled Coming Out, that the rapper is his most confident and vulnerable as an artist. “As my voice and body started changing, I became more comfortable with myself, and it showed up in my music and performances,” he says, referring to his gender journey. “What I always heard, felt and saw started to match what was actually here. And other people noticed it, too! This transition was affirming, and helped me confidently pursue this new venture.” Cuee calls Coming Out—comprised of just three songs—“a proud celebration,” one inspired by his path toward liberation, finding unapologetic love and thriving in a world that marginalizes people with his identities. 

In track one, “Extra Extra,” Cuee puts everyone on notice that he has arrived and that this era is one to tune into. Featuring grit pulled from his Chicago roots as he recounts his evolution and the success he is currently experiencing, Cuee has not just levelled up in his life, but also musically—smoother 16s, more relatable topics and quality production—something Cuee says is a result of being able to focus on his music full-time. “I got in my bag. I started to really feel myself and claim myself in the music industry,” he says, “so people can say, ‘Okay, Cuee’s not coming to play this time around.’”

Much of the credit for the spirit the EP evokes goes to the newfound love and support from his partner, Cuee says. “I got out of one of the most toxic relationships a few years ago, and then I met my [current] partner and saw daisies everywhere. I was feeling good … feeling great. And while making Coming Out, she was in the studio with him as his muse; she’s also a collaborator on track two, “Runaway.” You can feel the love, too, as Cuee goes full lover boy, embodying one of his favourite artists, rapper LL Cool J, on it:

Ooh girl, I love the way you look at me
Candy sweet, tongue-tied energy 
Kill me softly, baby, you the remedy
Come run away with me.

“Runaway” also stands out; it’s a new sound for Cuee, with heavy bass and guitar driving the song along. At first, Cuee wasn’t sure if it fit his style of music, but ultimately decided to try it. “I was like, ‘You know what? I can switch it up.’ And I think this might be something good,” he says. And he was right. “Runaway” is simply good, the perfect song for chilling at home or vibing on the dancefloor.

The final track on the EP is “Man Now,” and it’s about the confidence and liberation Cuee felt after seeing his hard work as an independent artist begin to pay off. For example, the rapper was recently featured as part of his city’s Explore Lawrence initiative that spotlights the local music scene. His image and art were on banners across the city. “So, I was feeling myself after that. Like, ‘Hey, I’m the man in Lawrence. I don’t know what any of y’all talking about,’” he says. 

“Man Now” is Cuee’s return to that confident attitude from “Extra Extra,” but with a twist. “Everybody’s so used to my trap sound or this hardcore sound. And I’m like, ‘Let me do something a little different,’” Cuee says. Over a contemporary funk beat—what Cuee calls “old-school vibes”—he raps:

Cuee the man now
I’m counting bands now
Old friends back around 
They got they hands out.

Overall, Coming Out is a flavourful taste of what’s to come from Cuee. It packages a rounded-out artist ready to offer authentic, vulnerable and relatable music, and audiences have already begun to respond in kind. Cuee recently performed the EP during a set in San Diego at Sofar Sounds, an intimate, curated, live-performance travelling showcase. “I’m a performer, and can get the crowd going. So I try to make tracks that help me embody those things on stage,” he says. 

Cuee is prepping a full album to be released later this year, and it’ll expand on the themes of Coming Out. The tracks are already done, he says, also teasing a visual for “Man Now” to come in July. In the meantime, add this rapper to your queue for a constant treat.

Coming Out dropped June 24 on all streaming platforms. There’s a Coming Out release show in Kansas City on June 25.

Daric L. Cottingham (she/her) is an award-winning news, culture and entertainment journalist. She is a proud Southern Black queer trans woman based in Los Angeles, holding a mass communications degree from Prairie View A&M University in Texas and a master’s in sports and entertainment journalism from the University of Southern California. Previously, she worked as a multi-platform editor at the LA Times, in podcast editorial for Spotify, and freelancing for publications like BuzzFeed, Harper’s Bazaar, Essence and The Washington Post. Beyond her portfolio, she does advocacy work as a general board member of NABJLA. Sneakers, animation, gaming, and sports take up her time when she’s not focussed on storytelling.

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