The most thrilling hip-hop mixtape of 2012 came not from A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar or Azealia Banks, but from a 6’3 transvestite rapper named Mykki Blanco. The ‘teenage female rapper’ persona of Michael Quattlebaum Jr, Blanco is where Marilyn Manson, Madonna, and Missy Elliott all meet. On Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss she plays with the juxtaposition of rap’s hyper-masculinity and the overt flamboyance of Queer culture. In such a short space of time and a handful of tracks, Blanco has carved out a recognizable sound and a clear space for herself in today’s hip-hop scene.
Mykki Blanco is vicious. Her verses are aggressively barked over clamoring, post-apocalyptic beats. Blanco is worlds apart from the diluted club sounds of top40 hip-hop or the hazy, drugged-out electronica of today’s rapper du jour. Blanco instead often sounds almost Industrial, and at times her work verges far closer to shock-rock than hip-hop. On early tracks like ‘Head is a Stone’ and ‘Join My Militia (Nas Gave Me a Perm)’, Blanco growls like a Riot Grrl. ‘Stone’ finds Blanco’s echoed vocals snarling over a barrage of industrial drums that sound far more intimidating than the threats of any of hip-hop’s gangsters. On ‘Militia’ her vocals are a bit more Minaj, but she weaves a love story about the Taliban over an eerie, stuttering beat and affirms that Nas ’gave [her] a perm’ to welcome her to hip-hop. It’s more exciting than an entire army of Minaj’s personas.
A track like ‘Wavvy’ comes in stark contrast to Blanco’s prior punk-rock sound. It’s a master class in modern hip-hop, showing true commercial viability for an artist as perplexing and indefinable as Mykki. Producer Brenmar offers up an electronic loop as Blanco promises to annihilate her competition and defy expectations; ‘Oh this fag can rap? Yeah, they say it, they listening!’ She’s easily as aggressive as any of the boys, but drops lines about ‘dick-riding’, Maybelline and praying to Destiny’s Child. In the video, she originally appears as Quattlebaum, bare-chested and macho. Half-way through she reappears, still naked to the waist, but now donning a flowing wig, bejewelled underwear and a pair of heels. Blanco is often at her best on these more straightforward rap tracks where she proves that she can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the rest of hip-hop’s current in-crowd. In interview she’s said that ‘gay men invented swag’ and Mykki, for one, luxuriates in it. On her latest single, ‘Kingpinning (Ice Cold)’, she growls verses about her posse: ‘I roll with all types / real niggas, real dykes / white boys with them yarmulkas / model chicks with a million followers,’ and promises that, ‘if you think you fast life / I’m about to pass you.’
As hip-hop’s own version of The New Normal, Blanco is vocal about her distaste for the idea of ‘Queer Rap’, preferring to present herself as an entertainer, rather than a gay movement. What Blanco does brilliantly is blur boundaries (both visual and aural) in a stifling, media created sub-genre. Take sexuality out of the equation and you still have a New York poet delivering spoken-word rhymes in the style of a punk rocker over a hip-hop beat. She has no connection to Ball culture and is quick to point out ‘no, I do not vogue!‘ It seems that hip-hop may be too simple a label for Mykki. On ‘Mendecino California’ she harks back to her lo-fi performance art days. She presents herself as an ‘oracle of the Goddess’ who has been dropped on a Californian freeway. She announces she is a terrorist with killer lip-gloss and killer legs, on her way to destroy Beverley Hills. It’s thrilling, but not something for the average hip-hop fan.
Blanco should not be dismissed merely as a member of New York’s so-called ‘Queer Rap’ movement, but embraced as part of rap music as a whole. Somewhat obtuse, but with a flair for a cutting couplet and nods to a multitude of genres, Mykki Blanco is easily one of the most exciting rising stars in the rap world on her own merits.
Mykki Blanco will be performing at Birthdays in Dalston on Tuesday 29 January. Tickets, priced at just £7, are available now from Bird On The Wire.
Mykki Blanco’s mixtape, Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss is available to download for free from her official wesbite.