“Cuphead Rap” should be a cornerstone of modern pop culture as we know it. Released in 2017 by JT Music, it’s a rap written from the perspective of Cuphead’s protagonist. Chronicling the struggles of running errands for the devil with his brother Mugman, the rap overflows (ha) with cup puns (ha ha) and a thick beat reminiscent of Cuphead’s jazz-inspired original soundtrack.
Despite being nearly a year and a half old, the song recently found viral footing with cosplayers on the social media site TikTok. Turns out, when boiled down to 12 seconds, “Cuphead Rap” is a confluence of catchiness and personality suited for cosplay TikTokers. Understanding the explosive popularity of the track means wading into the layered culture of the platform.
Why songs blow up on cosplay TikTok
Cosplayers on TikTok typically use the platform as an opportunity to show off their costume and interpretation skills. Sounds with a strong beat or a whole lot of personality — preferably, both — open up the floor for exaggerated motions and facial expressions.
Take “Junko posing,” a series of four hand poses associated with Danganronpa character Junko Enoshima. While Junko posing is, of course, associated with Junko cosplayers, it’s a trend in its own right set to Jesse Kreidel’s “Drop,” a song that’s not even available on Spotify in the United States nor formally affiliated with Danganronpa in any way. What it lacks in legal accessibility it makes up for with a strongly metered beat!
Sounds that bring a lot of personality and charisma also blow up. As an example, a clip of the song “Don’t Lose Your Head” from Six, a musical about Henry VIII’s six wives, is prolific among cosplayers TikTokers. A lip sync rather than gesturing act, the sound provides plenty of opportunity for cosplayers to flex their facial expressions and bring the song’s coy and chaotic energy to their characters. The sound’s most popular video (based on TikTok’s ranked “likes” list) is from a Vanellope (from Wreck it Ralph) cosplayer:
How is the “Cuphead Rap” used on TikTok?
The “Cuphead Rap” is most strongly associated with the “cosplay your username” challenge. When your username is something simple like “@nintendo.grl” and you own a massive amount of Nintendo paraphernalia, it’s a simple challenge.
However, when your handle is something like “@lokisnecksnapped,” things are bit more morbid.
The joy of TikTok is how songs known for one reason or another can lose all original associations. Sounds proliferate throughout different microcosms on the app, and are easily discovered by new ears through the platform’s “For You” page. As a result, tracks associated with specific challenges or meme formats frequently pop up in different contexts than those in which they originated. For example, the song “Body (feat. Brando)” by Loud Luxury is associated with a dance challenge. However, the context isn’t important; here’s the same song plugged into a Spider-Man cosplay TikTok.
The reason the “Cuphead Rap” is perfect
To put it professionally, the truncated clip is absolutely bonkers. The “Cuphead Rap” brings both a strongly metered beat and personality to spare, and the 12-second clip epitomizes the chaotic energy. Lyrics like “working for Lucifer is a ton of fun” and a throbbing bass drum hit on every beat are infectious.
The song itself is a bit unhinged, and perfectly suited to characters like Himiko Toga (from My Hero Academia) or, uh, a clown. The main part of the sound is four measures long — cosplayers typically devote one pose to each measure, bouncing on the beat and lip syncing along.
The song is enough of a mainstay on cosplay TikTok to be poked fun at: there’s a spinoff sound called “existential cuphead crisis” that’s just a muffled version of the original. TikTokers have used it to poke fun at the trend, posting TikToks with captions like, “Parents of cosplayers when it’s 2am and their kid is making tiktoks.”
Overall, the sound’s popularity with cosplay TikTokers can be attributed to its wild charisma and simple beat. On top of that, the song is just plain good. Where else can you listen to a man rapping as Cuphead call Mickey Mouse a prick with synthetic jazz horns wailing in the distance?