Mykki Blanco Hits The Wax
What happens when Trap hits the runaway? Fabulous things, that’s what. From Young Thug‘s trap focused gender-queer hip-hop, to Angel Haze‘s aggressive grrrl power rap, to LE1F‘s internet culture feedback flows, and even to Zebra Katz‘ winking drag, wonderful things happen when hip hop and gay/vogue cultures collide. The latest installment to this is Mykki Blanco‘s Mykki. The record bounces from Santigold’s faux reggae patois to Azalea Banks’ tech-rap, from snarling invectives to bubble gum pop. In a word, Mykki is currently the hardest working album on wax right now.
The album sets up its tone quickly with its opening track, “I’m In A Mood.” The song, admittedly, attempts to collage drag/effete aesthetics with very masculine “street thug” aesthetics. The combination is a gnarled and twisting song that, like a tube of black lip gloss, is dark even as light dances across it. “I’m In A Mood” doesn’t do this subtly. Couplets like “I love my lipgloss and lotion/ I f**k with some bunkers…” hint a complexity of identity not found on a lot of albums. The first track is just a prelude to the wonderful things to come in the subsequent tracks.
“I’m In A Mood” shifts beautifully into the second track (and single), “Loner.” With a beat that sounds like a Clams Casino orchestration with white around its nose, “Loner” truly starts the album. Blanco’s ability to command such authority while simultaneously appearing vulnerable in the song gives “Loner” a kaleidoscopic feel–in one bar Blanco is on top of the world, in another she’s spiraling out of control. With an airy hook, “Loner” burns through a personal critique of social media-infested post-modern life.
Blanco is able to approach this tone, this theme, without it becoming exhaustive in Mykki. Perhaps this is because the MC anchors her critiques in highly personalized terms (whether or not these are confessionals or purely fictive is another conversation). Each of the songs that make up the album, at their core, look at our highly connected world with such humanity that it is almost impossible to listen to these tracks and not care for the characters that hide in their grooves.
While that makes the album seem to be a patchwork quilt of sadness, I assure you it isn’t. Blanco stitches slowed down bounce-influenced beats to vogue rhythms while she waxes lyrical about dancing. Thinking specifically of “My Nene,” Blanco is able to combine the moody sensuality of LE1F with the weirded aggression of Busta Rhymes. The song beats minimal and explodes maximal at different parts of its almost three and a half minutes–a swerving track that is the norm on Mykki.
Yes, Mykki Blanco in her much awaited debut shows that effeminate gay culture can and will hit hard when it jumps on wax. But more than that, Blanco shows us how personal hip hop can get without devolving into complete affect. To say Mykki is hard is an understatement. I haven’t heard raps that break like hers since the late 90s. But behind this hardness is a tenderness, a care that Blanco has given to the world she inhabits on Mykki.