June 20, 2021
The Rapper has worked with Kanye and Madonna and blazed a trail for black queer pop. Their new mini album, they say, feels like the start of a new chapter…
Mykki Blanco: ‘I’ve helped to push open some closed doors. It’s a cool feeling’
Mykki Blanco has just moved to Hollywood, and five minutes into our conversation, the 35-year old rapper’s beloved mother calls. “She needs to chill out. Like, I don’t work?” laughs Blanco. “She’s helping me pick out furniture and she’s gone crazy about the whole thing.” There is something pure about one of hip-hop’s most experimental figures having their mother help them decorate. The non-binary musician (who uses the pronouns they/them) has been living outside the US for the past five years, residing mostly in Europe: London and Portugal’s countryside. They also lived in Paris during the city’s second lockdown in late 2020 – an experience Blanco describes as “emotionally distressing”. But now, back living near family and Friends, Blanco’s spirits seem high. Their new mini album, Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep, an electric collection of love songs featuring Blood Orange and Jamila Woods, is a fresh beginning. For starters, it’s the first time they have had a record deal.
That may come as a surprise considering Blanco has not only worked with Kanye West, Charli XCX and Madonna, but was also a founding member of “queer rap”, a sub-genre of hip-hop that allowed LGBTQ+ people to express themselves freely. Tattooed and 6ft 2in tall, Blanco has long played with drag and gender presentation, whether donning waist-length braids and a pink corset or a shirt and a shaved head; rapping bluntly over trippy synths, their hyperactive lyrics address sexuality, partying and bravado from a queer perspective. In 2012 Elle magazine declared them “hip-hop’s new queen”, and in the New York Times Michael Schulman enthused about their “glamazon alter ego… a redoubtable presence on the New York downtown art and cabaret scene”. They self-released their 2016 debut album, Mykki, to critical acclaim: it was described by the Observer’s Kitty Empire as “one of the year’s most riveting musical self‑portraits”.
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