Mykki Blanco: “I want to be a powerhouse!”
Who is Mykki Blanco, you ask? You won’t be asking this question for much longer. If you haven’t already heard (or seen) the rebellious queer diva’s genre-defying tracks “Join My Militia” and “Head is a Stone”, then you have some catching up to do. You also now know where you gotta be this Friday, July 27 at 11pm…
- July Hot Spots 2B: the PepTides, Parallels, Mykki Blanco!
- How to survive in anger: Jim Hubbard @ Concordia Nov 22
- Keeping all the lights on @ Image + Nation XXV
When I was last in New York at the end of March, Mykki Blanco’s name was already on people’s tongues (and minds). Coincidentally, the second night that I was in town, I had to entertain myself alone in Manhattan while my friend went out to the Bronx for an overnight shoot in Pelham Bay Park. The shoot was for “Join My Militia” (see below) and Blanco would turn out to be one of the hottest new queer artists garnering global attention for her style, poetry, intelligence and ambition.
Fame has hit the “Cosmic Angel” and downtown glamour girl like a tsunami since her Mykki Blanco and the Mutant Angels album dropped in May. The New York Times, Elle, and The Guardian ate her up in extensive interviews where the artist (aka Michael David Quattlebaum, Jr.) told the now mythic story of birthing the Mykki Blanco character one night: she walked out of her apartment in a bathing suit in full girl, and realized the power that is unleashed when you feel pretty. “And when you start to feel pretty: oh, boy, look out,” Blanco told the Times.
“I’m really grateful. I really don’t like wasting a moment. Just to be able to soak it up…. I’m riding the wave,” Blanco tells us on the phone from her New York apartment. Her voice is a little hoarse, although she’s about to go into the recording studio “for a bunch of hours,” to work on the follow-up project.
Much has been made of Mykki Blanco the hip-hop artist (Elle called her “hip-hop’s new queen”), but when you listen to her latest track “Head is a Stone” or even “Join My Militia” you realize that she’s got a lot more influences going on. “’Join My Militia’ is an alternative pop song. I was really happy that we were able to do a video for it that could communicate the darker nature,” Blanco says of the video that left me flying solo for a night. “Head is a Stone”, the video for which was greeted eagerly by everyone from Paper magazine to Exclaim, diverges even further from the genre into full-on industrial.
“Head is a Stone”
“When I was younger I had a group called No Fear,” she says, which was more punk-based. “The band was my performance art project, and a lot of that influence comes out when I do Mykki Blanco.” Galvanized from a young age by the Riot Grrrl scene (“Bikiki Kill, Babes in Toyland, Vaginal Cream Davis, le Tigre, and Queer Core” in general), that hard edge is always present in her work, even if she finds herself in the odd high-femme fashion spread. “I identify as a hip-hop artist. For what I’ve come out with so far, it was important to let people know that I have a really large range. I really am an entertainer across the board,” she says defiantly.
But what links all of her songs are their unflinching, smart lyrics and a definite indifference to sounding pretty. Speaking to Blanco (out of character, if you will), you get a slight sense of her softer North Carolina origins, harshened perhaps by years spent in Chicago and New York. But when Mykki sings, it’s a witchy, creole accent that completely takes over. “I think that the accent is naturally what I get into once I get on stage or in front of a camera,” she explains. And that’s a lot of what makes this new creature on the queer music scene so fascinating to watch: she’s got all of the elements to suggest staying completely marginal, but she’s captivated critical attention from mainstream listeners and writers across the globe.
“What the fuck I gotta prove/ to a room full of dudes/ who ain’t listenin’ to my words/ cause they’re staring at my shoes?” Blanco asks in her infectious hip-hop track “Wavvy.” For her Montréal show, you know we’ll be staring at her shoes AND listening to her words, and Blanco promises a “giving-all-my-heart performance.” Instead of travelling with her DJ, she’ll be relying on the talents of the Rough Diamond Collective, who smartly booked her back before the massive fame catapult. On that note, she is adamant that the pressure of seizing the moment is just like rising to the occasion in any other job.
“If you want to be a powerhouse, you have to work really hard. And I want to be a powerhouse! You don’t get breaks,” she declares, luckily for us. Not 2B missed.
Mykki Blanco w/ Hua Li + DJ Cassenoire
presented by Rough Diamond Collective
5788 boul. St-Laurent
“Join My Militia”