Michael David Quattlebaum’s high-octane alter ego has peaked. Mykki Blanco began life as a character making YouTube videos inspired by Lil’ Kim’s own alter ego, Kimmy Blanco, but has evolved into another identity, part of Quattlebaum’s duality as one who has identified as transgender, multi-gendered and has used different pronouns throughout their life.
Now, on Mykki, Quattlebaum has crafted a slick, deeply personal digestible work that focuses upon a minority mentality, covertly probing and reading into themes often only glazed over in modern hip hop; identity, isolation, loneliness and rejection. Quattlebaum has voiced influence from punk and riot grrrl, and it shows here, making for an intimate, breezy juxtaposition between a “hip-pop” production style and forthright punk delivery of complex themes.
This contrast leaves us with a record that is at once poetic, pensive, tender and hopeful. Mykki offers us a window into the journey of a person whose identity consistently shifts as they search for love, affection and acceptance while longing for an escape and sanctuary from the noise and probing of the outside world. This is a record that will wash your confusion with contentedness, and leave you feeling hopeful once you reach the end.
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Angst and aggression is rife on Mykki, but is delivered as the prefix to emotion; angsty, aggressive love and angsty, aggressive appreciation. I’m In A Mood kicks off proceedings with a reverberating synth hook, evoking the first entrance into a haunted church as a tone-setter should.
Blanco’s droning, hypnotic auto-tuned vocal floats over the music with a clenched-fist aggression kept in check; though in the context of the rest of such a “real” album the auto-tune seems somewhat idiosyncratic, it’s also strategically placed in imparting the contrast within Blanco’s experimentation with both pop and punk writing.
Loner and High School Never Ends continue Blanco’s conquest into pop structures against the backdrop of isolationist themes. On Loner, Blanco croons “I left my zone/I’m off my phone/emotions can’t control” and references his lover, “my left hand” but admits, (despite anxiety when disconnected from disconnection) an escapist appreciation and connection with the isolated lifestyle, the chorus chiming “I don’t need your pity/please leave me alone/I’ve been feeling feelings that I don’t condone/feeling like I’m ‘bout to break my fucking phone/all these followers around me.”
Moreover, when we get to The Plug Won’t, Blanco’s ongoing intersectional narrative introduces an introspective pining for a distant object of love, at once attempting to find the perfect love and chiding the self for its obsessive, fruitless search (Blanco asks, “Why do I need love?”). Blanco is conscious of his need for love, asking us (and himself) on Interlude 2, “Will this burning desire in me ever cease?” It becomes evident that Mykki is not simply about the isolation experienced by one who chooses to shun the outside, but about the desire for love and closeness intrinsic in all of us being almost heightened within such a person.
The album’s journey-like nature reaches its peak on the second half as we breeze through a series of meditations and confessions on the growth experienced through dalliance in vice; on You Don’t Know Me, tender production allows Blanco to vent spleen on his use of vice to temper his introspection, at once imparting “all in my head, all in my mind, these voices screaming/gimme the strength, I’m coming clean with all my demons” to admitting “I wasted too many years being wasted.” Blanco transports us to his erstwhile period of hedonism on For The Cunts, an ode to a toxic, high-grade inebriation that bubbles as the albums most up-tempo track, flirting at once with house and dancehall rhythms.
By the time we reach the record’s closer, Rock N Roll Dough, the album has come full circle; the first half was a genuine plea for isolation, while the second half accepts the presence of the listener and shares its angst openly, brushes off the dust, and rises to try and move on.
It is this journey that encapsulates the feeling of listening to Mykki; though the production, delivery and music is at times cold, sinister and unflinching, the hopeful and plain spoken lyricism ensures that it doesn’t seek to keep the listener at arms length. Rather, it rewards probing and repeated listens, because deep down, it needs to be loved and listened to; this makes Mykki an essential record for those interested in the marginalised journey in search of love.
This Mykki Blanco article was written by Lawottim Anywar, a GIGsoup contributor. Photo credit : Benedict Brink