Mykki Blanco is the epitome of the modern "queer" artist. Their rapping ability and songwriting skills have landed them the global superstardom that many dream of – collaborating musically with Princess Nokia, Teyana Taylor and Charli XCX. Almost a decade ago, Mykki Blanco created a musical identity for themselves that quickly saw them become a divine voice for the LGBT+ community, offering warmth and safeness. Entering this new musical era showcasing their unique and truthful perspective on duality, sexuality, freedom and the substantial rawness of truth, Mykki is rewriting the rules on what it means to 'a star'.
Mykki's art stretches beyond being strictly confined to the title of a 'musician'. They are a performer, poet and most importantly an activist – using their platform as a queer artist to fight against misogyny, homophobia and transphobia. Continuously conveying the message of freedom and equality, Mykki tells us why it's essential for them to be an active voice in the LGBT+ community. "We as people often talk about things that are real facets in our lives. That's our identity; those are things that are always going to be present because they're intrinsically who we are. I am me, and I'm going to talk about the things I face in my life and will continue to face until things change".
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Last week, they released their new project 'Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep' – a nine-track mini-album that exudes the many different soulful nostalgic sounds of R&B, house, and funk. Reflecting on Mykki's wisdom and growth in their musical and artistic journey into becoming a more mature artist, the mini-album sees them as pioneering figures in the queer rap genre. Inspired by their own experiences, the project is laced with representation, love and an abundance of hits. Speaking with me over the phone ahead of its release, they tell me about the main inspiration behind the project and the sudden urge to switch things up.
"I knew that I wanted to work with more live instruments, and naturally, I thought about music made in the 60s, 70s and 80s because the majority of the songs from those eras were live. Having that freedom to create whatever I want when you're bringing together vocalists and writing harmonies, hooks and choruses; it's nice when you can work in this way where you don't know what the song is going to be, but you know it's going to be epic".
Releasing the mini-album on Transgressive Records, an independent record label that looks after the likes of Arlo Parks, The Antlers, and Hippo Campus, 'Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep' doesn't disappoint. Describing the project as "a collection of songs about love that grew out of the end of a cherished romance", Mykki speaks of having the freedom to be expressive as a Black queer person in today's mere existence. "Because all that other shit is bullshit. I hope for change, and the only way for change is to be that change. I want people to get with the programme and realise that people like me are not a threat. We are empowering; our stories of the authenticity of our identities are truthful. It's toxic to think that you can't be into the nuances of someone or their culture because you've never heard of them before and don't know their narrative. I'm queer, so my life has been about trauma, pain, abuse, and how I've overcome it".
"People want these tropes because these are the things that white supremacy has allowed through a certain creative lens. When people wake up to the fact that they like what they like, it becomes 'toxic' and is considered 'brainwashing'. I want people to be able to live in the present and see the full spectrum of who we are as queer artists and what we bring to the table because we fucking bring a lot".
'Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep' ushers Mykki into a fresh new era, reintroducing the world to the nuanced and genre-spanning artist they've become since their birthing ten years ago. When asked what their biggest challenge was when making the mini-album, they tell me, "one of the most beautiful things about this whole process was that I had time. Nobody rushed me. It took me two and a half years to make this album the way I wanted to because there was no due date. But I also think that with me having that much time, I never realised that amazing music could be made if you let things marinate. I used to go into the studio and work with a producer for four to five hours and be like it's all done. But working in a way where you're just slowly building your craft and taking your time with it is so much better".
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Naming the project 'Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep' after breaking up with their boyfriend of three years back in August 2019, Mykki saw the project as an avenue to not only cure their sadness but to demonstrate their rapping and songwriting skills as an extension of their ability to shine not just as an artist but as a person in their own right.
"I'm not one of those people that goes into the studio to make sad music just because I'm depressed. I don't work that way. I take out my frustration and anger but listening and creating. I come up with fresh, original ideas that honestly are things I regurgitated up from my subconsciousness surrounding love and pain. The title for this project was pretty straightforward, I think – it ended up working because that's what the songs are about. Broken hearts (mine in specific) and beauty sleep cause a bitch likes her rest".
Mykki's childhood has played a massive part in the person they are today. Raised in Orange County, California, Mykki was never one to shy away from being themselves – and after moving to New York City, they found their voice by creating a character that helped with their path of self-discovery. Inspired by Lil Kim's 'Kimmy Blanco' alter ego, Mykki began posting freestyles on social media, first writing poetry and turning that into their first EP Mykki Blanco & The Mutant Angels. Turning several industry heads, Mykki used their newfound fame to rewrite the rules and take pride in experimenting with themselves.
Collaborating with queer artists like Big Freedia, Dev Hynes (Blood Orange), Jamila Woods, Mykki always makes sure to break gender norms regarding features, fashion and visuals. "I was one of the artists that helped pioneer queer artists being on the charts in the day and age, and that is something that these young artists are now able to benefit from. All I've ever wanted was to see things manifest in my community, and I'm glad that I could be the one to help push that. It's such an amazing time right now for Black queer artists with the likes of Young MA, Lil Nas X. I hope that popular culture continues to say hello to us and welcome us because we are the representation for gender non-conforming artists".
"The insecurities and the vulnerabilities that we experience as queer people is why I'm so connected to my fan base. I've always been forthcoming with them because that's our relationship. It's got this like nurturing dialogue, you know, rather than like, the fan artists dynamic. My identity as Mykki Blanco is MY identity, and they understand that. This is the first time in five years that I've put out a full-length body of work, and I wanted everything I've felt in that time not just to be heard but felt".
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'Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep' is out now.
Words: Shakeena Johnson
Photo Credit: Luca Venter
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