Hey Mykki: Mykki Blanco
The gender-queer rapper quit music last year at the height of his buzz. But now he's back to lay himself bare on his debut album
Thinking his entire world would cave in, Mykki Blanco was in such a “fucked-up headspace” last year he abandoned music altogether, deciding to pursue his interest in writing about places and cultures instead. Having been HIV-positive for the whole of his musical career since 2011, Mykki, real name Michael Quattlebaum, had reached boiling point with his burdening secret. “I only had examples of people in the nineties who came out and were publicly shunned. It was scary because I thought everything I enjoyed was going to go away. I thought I wasn’t going to be able to exist as an artist,” he tells us. Eventually he decided to open up, more for himself than anything else – and was surprised by the supportive response he received. Starting his Dogfood Music imprint on !K7 thereafter, the rapper eased himself back into music. “Everything kind of bounced back into being. I realised that this was something I love so much and I can’t fuck it up.” And now, the cross-dressing, gender-bending rapper has made a statement with a killer debut record.
Having burst onto the scene in 2012 with the hectic and club-heavy hit ‘Wavvy’, the North Carolina-raised rapper found himself heavily linked with the NY queer rap scene, along with the likes of Zebra Katz and Le1f, mixing punk, hip hop and club culture with fierce attitude, firebomb verses, drag antics and sheer electricity. Taking his cues from club culture and punk music equally, Mykki embodies a voice that music all too often is missing. “Clubs speak to queer culture,” says Mykki. “If you’re a gay person coming to a big city, whether that’s London or Paris, it’s like a second family in a way, and can be such a nucleus for where you go and what you do.” In the stories he raps, like on lead single ‘The Plug Won’t’ where he tries and fails to find love in the club, and in his music’s electronic production, such as the funky house rhythms of ‘My Nene’, the club is a place we keep returning to.
But it’s the punky attitude that flows through his performance that makes Mykki such an interesting artist to watch – especially now as he embarks on his world tour, thrashing his limbs and vocals across the stage and microphone. “I try to put on quite a visceral performance. I leg-stomp everywhere, I climb on shit, I jump on shit, and I run on shit. I don’t hide. Sometimes I even black out when I’m on stage.”