Mykki Blanco: The genderqueer rapper who's doing it her own way
U.S. Rapper Mykki Blanco is the feminine alter-ego of Michael Quattlebaum Jr - a musician and poet, she's in Australia for her debut tour and spoke with Sabine Brix about music and challenging stereotypes through performance art.
Can you tell us a bit about Mykki Blanco, how did that persona begin?
Mykki Blanco is really this feminine empowered persona I created for a video project that became a performance project that became what I do now: making music and touring the world, but it's also now a vehicle for me to be able to express my ideas on performance, writing and drama.
Where did you grow up, how did your music career evolve?
I grew up between Raleigh North Carolina and San Mateo California. I began doing performance art as a teen but really I didn't begin performing my punk poetry stuff until I was living in New York. A lot of people think I am from New York actually but its really just because I lived there for 5 years hustling about before I began Mykki.
When did you first realise you were gay and how did this shape your music, if at all?
I never really had to come out, it was that way for me, but I was still 14, 15 when I made it clear to everyone.
I liked a lot of Riot Grrl at the time, also a lot of psychedelic stuff: Noise, Blonde Redhead, Julie Ruin, M, Devendra Banhart, Chicks On Speed, Joni Mitchell, The Stooges.
Watch Mykki Blanco's Feeling Special
When did you first perform as a woman? What was that experience like for you?
It was when I combined what I had been doing with Mykki Blanco as just a dressed up performance video project and began recording actual raps to perform in drag - it was doing this that liberated the character and how I really found a voice between the punk performance and this raging feminine energy.
Has it been difficult for you, being a gay rapper, working within a genre which can seem dominated by heterosexual, masculine men?
Well for me it's been more about creating my own fan base, not really catering to any one community but working within whatever genre I like. The genre splicing of our contemporary culture has worked to my favour. I've just been trying to develop as a song writer and lyricist to match my showmanship.
Who did you look up to, from a musical perspective, growing up?
I loved really esoteric stuff like Yoko Ono and Ammon Duul, krautrock, but also a lot of 1960's psychedelic stuff. I listened to Syd Barret, Sonic Youth. I don't really say this in interviews often but Siouxie and the Banshees is a HUGE influence on me and the kind of music I'd like to make.
[Image] Mykki Blanco. Photo: Supplied
You’re a performance artist and poet, you studied design too, what made you decide to stick with music?
Things just kind of become what they are, sometimes without your control. Performing for me has always come naturally but then creating the whole machine that goes into having this lifestyle: the shows, global audience, the music - which is the most important and for me. Video is always a great entertainment device I can use to create little dramas, haha!
What are you most looking forward to in Australia?
Meeting people, having awesome shows and creating a relationship where people want me back, where Australia can now become a yearly part of my life :)
MYKKI BLANCO AUSTRALIAN TOUR 2014
SYDNEY: Thursday June 26, Arq
MELBOURNE: Friday June 27, Hi-Fi Bar
PERTH: Saturday June 28, Circo Festival