Telekom Electronic Beats

My name is Mykki: an interview with Mykki Blanco

Fearless. Poet. Performance artist. Rapper. Punk. Mykki Blanco is all of these, and more. I won’t say her debut EP  Mykki Blanco & The Mutant Angels is game-changing; the lethal, industrial-punk beats and jagged, take-no-prisoners flow within defy the game. Those who champion the silly idea of ‘gay rap’ group her with equally-intriguing East Coasters like House of Ladosha, Le1f, and Zebra Katz, but she sits just as closely with fellow noisemakers Sensational and Death Grips in shaping rap into something stronger, weirder and fresher than ever. With an LP planned for October, a slew of music videos in the works, and a tour prepped to begin soon, Blanco’s reading us like fire. After an intense, grind-heavy show, I found out more.

I have to say I’ve seen the best crowd reactions of my life at your shows.
I’m working right now from learning from people how to keep my set high energy. I attended a DJ Rashad show and I tweeted “DJ Rashad changed my life”, watching how he was able to keep the crowd on their feet and in this euphoria. I’m repositioning my set, starting to get deeper into the musicology of making people happy on the dance floor. The right show in New York can tear down a house.

Is New York your favorite place to play?
It is, but all I’ve ever wanted is an international career. For me it’s never been ‘I want this strong American hip hop fan base’, or a highbrow fashion/art fan base either. A fan is a fan, and If I have kids in Ohio and kids in Belgium who like me, that’s where I wanna go play. I will go wherever you want me.

Are you working with anyone right now?
I’m re-rerecording a song with Le1f called ‘Fuck the DJ’. Le1f is an amazing producer, musician, and rapper. I have a lot of respect for him, and to work with him as a peer really means a lot to me. He’s the only entertainer that I’ve worked with as a producer. I just finished a track with Gatekeeper, it’s going to back to me rapping in an industrial tinge. I’m also going out to LA to work with Asma from Nguzunguzu. Jacob Cioccy of the art collective Paper Rad and the noise band Extreme Animals just sent me a beat that’s amazing.

I’ve also done two tracks with Flosstradamus. I knew them in Chicago when I lived there and they’re having this second wave of gaining notoriety, even though they have a huge fan base because they’ve been in the game for a minute. I did two tracks with them. One beat is ‘Mykki Blanco’ that they had sent me a year, I’ve been performing to that for a long time. It’s a trappy kind of beat, my name over and over again chopped and screwed, and I’m rapping over it like crazy. I also just did a new track with them called ‘Young Rhyme Assassin’, really catchy but simplistic. There’s no hook, no chorus. It was really important for me to do a song where people could know that I just rap on and on and on. I start and just go bar for bar for bar for bar. So I’m really excited about that because a lot of the tracks on the album are so club-focused.

Tell me about the album.
It’s about the lifestyle that I lead when I go out, and this relationship that I have with DJs and producers. I’m trying to make happy music and music that makes people move. I don’t want to write it off and call it ‘party music’ but I want to have people enjoy themselves. Right now this is looking like twelve to fifteen tracks. Then on August 24th we leave for a European tour with Physical Therapy. He also produced a track for me.

Your music videos are amazing. When’s the next one coming out?
‘Wavvy’ at the end of July, which I’m highly anticipating, the video looks amazing. Brenmar and I are going to do another track together for the album. I think that video will take me to the next level, in an entertainment way. I don’t have to be on a major label, though, or have high profile people direct or work me. What I’m doing comes from this raw place where I’m giving it my all as an entertainer.

Is the video for the next single?
My next single will be ‘Virginia Beach’, which is a song I did with Nick Weiss of Teengirl Fantasy. I’m really excited about that because it’s a hip hop song in the most typical way of being a hip hop song: verse, chorus, hook, typical hip-hop structure. It’s a bit nostalgic because I wanted to create a song for when I was in puberty. I was listening to So So Death, Atlanta bass, that kind of stuff, and for me bass music is almost a reflection of African-American rave music. I really wanted to make a song that was an homage to that. Nick created this beat that’s a mix of happy hardstyle, bass and hip-hop. This beat is nuts because you think ‘how can you actually rap over that?’ I had a couple of my friends listen to it and they went ‘this is future hip hop.’ I’m actually doing two versions of that song, a version with Nick and then for the video I’m slowing down the original beat significantly, which takes the character of the song into that Southern rap tradition.

Your songs do carry that same kind of aggressive vibe.
I can’t deny the fact that I’m an aggressive rapper. It’s an exorcism of a lot of aggression that I may have pent up or received from people on the street. Cross-dressing is not easy. When you cross-dress people look at you and throw all their judgments about what they think about that onto you. They do it very blatantly and they don’t mind staring. I was raised not to stare; I think that’s a Southern thing. I have experienced what the power of being looked at can do to you, making this eye contact and having this exchange where all of a sudden someone else is in a place of control. From that, I learned this social psychology of how to be strong. If someone stares at me and I’m cross-dressing I stare them back in the face and I often smile. When you look people back in the face they turn away because we live in a culture of insecurity, and if you turn people’s insecurities around on them, you’re the winner.

I grew up listening to riot grrrl and punk, to Kathleen Hannah, Babes in Toyland, Le Tigre, Free Kitten. It’s an attitude of not being defiant against society, but knowing that my non-conformist attitude and my lyrical content have nothing to do with rebellion— they just are. Usually conservative society sees this breakaway from the norm as a rebellion, and it’s like… no one is rebelling. It’s just how people are.

So a lot of your lyrics come from your day-to-day life?
A lot of it is personal experience. I’ve experienced so much in this short year. I do play on the braggadocio of hip-hop, and I’m always conscious of the gender play in my lyrics. When I use certain words, it comes from the hip-hop tradition, and when I use other words, it comes from a gay African-American place. If you know these worlds, it’s not confusing because the pronouns and the metaphors intertwine. But if you’re an outsider you’re not necessarily going to get these references very much. I have fun with it all because I don’t think my music is political, because I’m not a political person. If you want to refer to me as ‘he’ or ‘she’ go right ahead. I’m not someone who feels like I have to rebel against society’s labels because they don’t matter to me.

Published July 31, 2012. Words by Irina Makarova.