Live: Mykki Blanco – Wavy

| Written by: Matt Kelly

Mykki Blanco (Born Michael Quattlebaum Jr.) is an American rapper, artist and poet. He is also a she, and as both man and woman Michael/Myyki are confronting expectations in hip hop, the art world and beyond. Michael was recently arrested in Portugal, in his own words, for “for being gay” and because “class matters and an upwardly mobile black man isn’t something people always want to see.” Blanco is accused of abusing an airport police officer. The whole event is difficult to judge, like many things now it happened online as well as offline, with Blanco tweeting throughout the whole affair. He is unashamedly confrontational and this style hit hard against the more conservative sections of Portuguese society. After a torrent of racial and homophobic abuse on the internet he ended the spat with one single tweet and a 600 Euro fine.

“I’M OVER PEOPLE DEFENDING PORTUGAL BECAUSE OF FALSE NATIONAL PRIDE. GUESS WHAT? YOUR COUNTRY IS JUST AS FUCKED UP AS ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE WORLD. DEAL WITH IT.”

However there is an old saying that “There is no such thing as bad publicity”, which was possibly the case here, with the international music press keen to run Michael’s story.

Michael Quattlebaum grew up in California. His parents divorced when he was aged two, his mother worked as a paralegal and his father was an IT technician-turned psychic. At age 16 he ran away to New York, only to return to California a few months later. However it’s fair to say that his brief stint in New York started the creation of “Mykki Blanco”. It was in New York’s “dark playgrounds” where Blanco started to cross dress. He had long known that he was a gay man; however the shift into presenting himself as a woman was a big change in his life – eventually leading to him becoming “Mykki”. The name was inspired by female rapper Lil’ Kim’s alter ego Kimmy Blanco.

As in Portugal, Blanco is not one to shy away from trouble or confrontation. Choosing to take to the hip hop stage in his female persona is testament enough to that. Operating in such a masculine dominated art form, the idea of a cross-dressing rapper was always going to cause controversy and it has. However Blanco finds this less interesting than the idea that he is following on from artists like Freddie Mercury, Dennis Rodman, Marylin Manson and Eminem. It’s clear that she is a performer.

Mykki’s music is hard and dirty with beats that conjure up images of dark rainy urban streets illuminated by the dim glow of neon signs; the underworld comes out to play – New York obviously inspired her. Full of squelchy, off time, discordant sounds; her lyrics are often full of rage and unfettered raw emotion, being pushed towards a stream of almost esoteric consciousness. You can hear elements of Riot Grrl punk through to European electronic music (the undertones of industrial and drum and bass rumble through Mykki’s streets like car engines rumbling in the distant night). Performance wise she gets stronger and stronger – on the latest e.p. “Betty Rubble: The Initiation EP” she sounds as if she has found her voice. Known for her sweat soaked, smash the house down performances she has managed to take the energy of the live show and start harnessing it for her studio work. Stories of Mykki Blanco shows swirl around the internet, she definitely gets people talking, following in the footsteps of her glam idols before her.