An Interview with Mykki Blanco

Katherine Koniecki

Hip Hop hasn’t seen an artist like Mykki Blanco. The first press wave hit with an introduction as a transgendered rapper along with the gay hip hop scene and artists like Zebra Katz, Le1f, and House of LaDosha storming out of New York. Get further into Mykki’s persona and you’ll find a poet first and foremost, with a published book entitled From The Silence Of Duchamp To The Noise Of Boys released with Opening Ceremony last year. On stage Mykki’s performance style is mixed with aggressive lyricism, industrial beats, psych-rock, hip hop and occasional goth drag designed to shock.

Now a few months into the furious tour, the initial hype surrounding Mykki’s drag persona may be winding down, but you’ll keep seeing Mykki boy and Mykki girl as the multi-faceted performance artist continues to break barriers. Catch the next Berlin show at the CTM 13 party at Stattbad Wedding on 2nd Feb.

You’ve always gone by Micheal David Quattlebaum Jr.,when was Mykki Blanco born?

The Mykki Blanco things just came about through my own sexuality and then I decided to perform as Mykki. And then when I realised that it peaked people’s interest even more that I was in a completely feminine attire yet was producing this super theatrical rock n’ roll rap show, I think all those elements really locked people in. I’m really glad that I’m starting to receive this attention while I was still doing ultra feminine performances. It’s important to me that people realise that it is versatile. You’re going to see Mykki in an expensive dress, maybe you’re not. I didn’t want gay people to think that I’m changing to become more commercial, that’s why early on I said that I need to do my next two videos as a girl and boy. You have to understand that it’s going to be both because that is what makes me successful.

Do people know you were a poet before you started to rap?

14 is when I started doing poetry readings and really taking the role of a poet seriously, which no one takes seriously like I do. There are writers that I definitely look to like Pablo Naruda, Sylvia Plath, Bob Kaufman. These are all people that I consider amazing writers and they all have a hint of magical realism. With publishing my book of poems From The Silence Of Duchamp To The Noise Of Boys, I just really wanted to tell all the stories that I had been collecting. That’s just what makes a rich creative life accessible to other people when you’re willing to share what you’re learning along your journey.

There’s this hyper-charged aggression that comes out of you when you’re on stage, what do you consider when you’re up there?

To perform to beat-based music, but have the energy of a punk is what makes my live show unique and it’s what I’ve built my showmanship on. Even though I’m rapping I’ve constructed everything in a way that it’s kind of like a shock rock show. I’m very very theatrical when I’m on the stage . There are moments when I do rap monologues, freestyle. In a song like ‘Join My Militia’ I’m at my most dramatic. For me it’s like moving, moving, and moving, taking little breaks when I can with each interlude, not taking too long of a break making sure I have enough breath control. I model my performance after someone like Tina Turner or Iggy Pop, or GG Allin, or Beyonce, the kind of performers where it’s just them on stage, but that’s enough. That’s what I try to work towards all the time, pushing my own limits.

Do you always perform in drag?

Sometimes when I perform as Mykki, I’m not going to perform in feminine drag, sometimes I like to do goth drag. You’re never going to see me in a white chain and a gold t-shirt, but as my mood changes there are times when I would have been in a dress, heels, and lipstick all day and then I have the show and I don’t feel like being dressed in heels, and I just feel like painting black around my eyes and a bloody mouth and looking like black metal.

Has New York been a good place for you?

It was good for me because you learn how to work it. That’s the one thing about me, I’m very very strategic and I think about everything. I think about every aspect of my career from when I’m writing a song, to when I’m writing the hook to when I’m working with the producer to when I’m working with my publicist, to when I’m working with the director, I consider everything because I really take it seriously. To a certain extent what I’m doing is so age sensitive. It’s only going to be cute for me to be hopping up on stage and being a wild and crazy ferocious machine until I reach a certain age. I have to think about my future after that.

Photo Credits: Matthew Stone for i-D Magazine