Mykki Blanco is the "teenage female rapper" persona of the 25-year-old New York rapper Michael Quattlebaum. At least she was — in the video for Quattlebaum's intoxicating "Wavvy," which Gawker is premiering, Quattlebaum appears in and out of drag going from a backward cap and tight-jeans look to wig-and-makeup evening wear and back.
This is the rapper's latest way of confounding anyone who'd label him. Along with the likes of Le1f and Zebra Katz, Mykki Blanco has been lumped into the gay-rapper movement that has inspired many a trend piece in recent months. None of these rappers shy away from their sexuality — they are all explicitly out in their songs. In "Wavvy," for example, we hear Blanco say, "'Oh, this fag can rap?' / Yeah, they say it, they listenin'," and "If you's a dick rider, you gon' dick ride forever." While the proliferation of LGBT rappers who are respected for their hipness and skill is a tangible sign of progress in the notoriously homophobic world of hip-hop, AlterNet's Julianne Escobedo Shepherd recently warned against sexuality based associations for a story's sake in a piece Le1f endorsed on Twitter. She wrote:
But that's the problem: as their stars rise, they're increasingly being boxed in rather than celebrated as out, and not by choice. They're being further marginalized by being tenuously lumped together.
Quattlebaum, though, simply won't stay still long enough to stay in a box and that goes way beyond a wig fickleness. He told Interview about his "transgendered life," which seems to regard gender too fluidly to label it (I'm currently taking guesses about pronoun use, but going with "he" since Quattlebaum maintains his birth name and refers to Mykki as a "character"):
I considered myself gay for so long, it really wasn't until I started dressing as the opposite sex pretty regularly that I began to see my gender identity shift. To be flat-out honest, it wasn't until I started sleeping with men as the opposite sex that things started to really change-when I found out men that I found attractive found me attractive as a woman!
Moreover, Mykki Blanco won't be fasted to a genre, either: Quattlebaum described his Mykki Blanco & the Mutant Angels EP, which came out earlier this year, as "industrial psych-rock stuff," a counterpoint to an upcoming hip-hop oriented release (indeed, a song like "Freak Jerk" is more reminiscent of Throbbing Gristle than anything).
And like many rappers who are gay, Quattlebaum rejects the "gay rapper" label — he told the New York Times that he calls himself "a mixture of riot grrrl and ghetto fabulousness."
Rappers have long played characters — where realness is concerned, Rick Ross' fraudulent claims have exposed him as a drag performer in his own right. Moreover, Mykki Blanco wholly owns one of hip-hop's historically cherished qualities: versatility. Regardless of what Quattlebaum is wearing at any given moment, he is the picture of a modern rapper. It is easy to mistake him as an outsider, but this world is his for the inventing.