photographer / Kevin Amato
story / Rashard Bradshaw
If you haven’t heard about Mykki Blanco, the gender-bending rapper whose fueling a revolution every time she applies some mascara you should take the time to refresh your web browser. If you haven’t heard all the noise she’s been making in the music and art world with her mixtapes and videos you should crawl from under the rock you’ve been lounging under for the past year or so. Mykki, the rap alias of poet and performance artist Michael Quattlebaum, is a hip-hop phenomenon. What started off as a twisted art project in gender, aggression and fashion quickly become one of the faces of a new wave in the commercial coverage of a “genre” of music that to some seemed like a complete contradiction – queer hip-hop.
Quattlebaum is a native of Raleigh, North Carolina. His life as a young adult was spent bouncing around Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco before settling in New York. The life of a young nomad had to have its setbacks but for Michael it definitely had a few perks. Follow in the footsteps of Madonna Michael fled to the big apple to live out his dreams and continued developing a very special network of contacts that include producers like Nguzunguzu, Brenmar and Nostradamus and acts like Le1f and Death Grips.
Her first musical project, the EP Mykki Blanco & the Mutant Angels was inspired by a collection of poems by Michael published by OHWOW in 2011 titled “From the Silence of Duchamp to the Noise of Boys.” This release was followed by the 2012 mixtape Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss that included the club hit “Wavvy.”
Soon after, Betty Rubble: The Initiation EP was released. With a slew of amazing visuals to illustrate Mykki’s trippy flow the rapper’s visibility quickly skyrocketed. Stand out tracks form her last release include “Kingpinnig” and “Feeling Special” which showcase Mykki’s unique lyricism that can be as innocent as a schoolgirl and menacing as a box cutter.
She continues to silence naysayers who are quick to write off the rapper as a gimmick or another byproduct of the current state of hip-hop that is considered to be a far cry from the golden era of the 90s thugged out, hyper masculine blueprint — light-years from the Mykki Blanco drag aesthetic.
We chatted with the rapper via email after an exciting performance at this year’s Afro Punk festival to get a better idea about just what makes Mykki tick. Her set left us mesmerized with her sun kissed box braids, butterfly nipple pasty and rhymes that didn’t ask for your attention but demanded it. She was currently buzzing around the states on her American tour.
Aside from the current tour and the new project Miss Snow White what else is keeping Mykki Blanco so busy?
“I’m excited to finish up October touring in Europe then spend late November, December, January and February recording new music. I want to come back strong with new music!”
What was one of your best and worst tour experiences?
“One of the best hands down has to be the luxury treatment I always experience in Sweden. Hands down! People are so hospitable and put us up in the most lavish places its crazy. On the negative side I won’t ever go to Poland again, we don’t have to even go into it but I’m never visiting that country again if I can help it.”
What’s the hardest part of putting together a full-length project?
“It’s not hard but scheduling the time. The music is what drives everything so it’s the most important but other obligations, touring, press are also key components to keeping things running smoothly.”
Tell us some of your crushes?
“I like weird looking boys.”
Since this is for the legends issue who are some individuals that you feel fit into the category of legendary?
“David Bowie, Michael Jackson, and Madonna”
Do you feel one day you will be described as legendary?
“Get back to me in 30 years.”
What does Mykki do on her downtime?
“I don’t have downtime hahaha not right now at least.”
What’s one beauty secret every man/woman should know?
“Serum! Use a Serum and drink tons of water. I try to drink 3 bottles a day.”
What’s one thing you really want to accomplish?
“I want to make hit records, I want to continue to travel all over the world, grow as a performer, film, theatre all of it!”
What’s the most conversational thing you have heard about yourself?
“Hmm my persona at times can be a little cold and bitchy but then it’s just a persona now isn’t it?”
What would a young Michael think about Mykki Blanco?
“He would want to grow up to be her!!”
What’s the biggest misconception about Mykki Blanco?
“That I want to remain underground. I don’t, I love success.”
Her Initiation World Tour hits Asia Sept 24th that will be stopping in Singapore, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Seoul Korea after a 9 date run in the USA and Canada.
When discussing the upcoming tour Mykki shared, “It’s going to be a complete culture shock as none of us have ever been to Asia.”
What do you want to tell your fans?
“Stay focused. Stay focused, have patience, but wait for nothing.”
How do you want to be remembered?
“It’s too early for this.”
Whether she knows it or not Mykki is already blazing a trail in music that is making her a pioneer and a legend in her own right. Like many progressive acts in hip-hop before her, who have also mix various genres and fresh ideas into a stew of excitement Mykki is breaking down barriers and not apologizing about it. Why should she? She’s taking the music to new heights creatively and commercially, challenging norms and sharing her talents with the world in the same manner as innovators Missy Elliott and Busta Rhymes who Mykki affectingly calls some of the weirdoes of hip-hop.
Her gender, sexual orientation, sexual stage style and performances may help keep her in the press but that’s not what’s holding your attention. Her fans come to her shows in swarms. Some even styled in looks the rapper dawns in her viral Youtube videos that play out like cinematic experiences. She doesn’t grace stages she destroys them. This fusion of hardcore hip-hop swagger and punk essentials molded by the likes of Lil Kim, Marilyn Manson and Tracy + the Plastics is proving with each release that her talent is outshining the hype.
Blanco is bigger than any label the media can place on her or her artistry and whether you want to ride the wave or not she is here to stay, a fitting story for a college dropout who just wanted to follow their dreams.