From Art to Rap
New World Order - Mykki Blanco

“People in my particular peer group are very conservative about the Internet and what we do, and I feel like we have a different kind of web etiquette,” twenty-six-year-old Michael Quattlebaum, a New York-based performance artist and poet explains when asked about his obsession with the new generation of Internet-savvy creatives. “I’m fascinated by the generation immediately below mine. The immediacy in which I think that they’re able to just expose themselves in a way that is interesting.”

It was while looking to explore this interest further, as the subject matter behind a piece of video art, that Quattlebaum stumbled almost accidentally into a career in rap. Re-appropriating Lil Kim’s ‘Kimmy Blanco’ alter ego he created a character known as Mykki Blanco, a female teenage bedroom rapper not dissimilar to the likes of Angel Haze and Kitty Pyde, who would record video blogs and rap songs which he’d upload to a Facebook account. “It was very based on that slightly narcissistic, selfy culture, where it was like I would take a white wall in my room, and I’d get these Nicki Minaj, Drake and Lil Wayne posters and put them all over the wall and get into make-up and drag,” he describes of his rap origins. “I’d turn on my MacBook and I would start talking to the camera and sometimes I’d rap and make these little rap songs that I’d imagine a really good teenage rapper would make.”

After having attracted an audience online, Quattlebaum was invited out to perform as Mykki Blanco. Already a seasoned performer with industrial rock group No Fear, he did this happily explaining: “I performed as the character out in New York City, and then people started really responding saying ‘You can really rap, you should keep on rapping’ and I just kind of laughed it off.” However he was compelled to keep performing, admitting: “It was a contrast to the industrial stuff that I was doing with No Fear, and I really appreciate variety, so it just all came together. It crossed over from an art project to me really trying to make songs.”

Fast-forward to the present and Mykki is currently out on tour in the US in support of controversial experimental hip-hop trio, Death Grips, fresh off the release of her ‘Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss’. The caricature of the teenage rapper has fallen away; “I would say it’s more of a title, less of a character. I would say that the title represents me coming full circle and I think it’s not so much a character anymore, but more like how I perform.” Michael sees this an important theme of the project, breaking down the mixtape’s title to explain: “Within Mykki Blanco she has this whole Cosmic Angel, Black Sailor Moon motif, and that serves an aesthetic purpose, so that’s the origins of Mykki Blanco, and the Illuminati Prince/ss is more the Michael side, that’s Michael Quattlebaum coming back in and making Mykki Blanco as a whole.”

Words: Grant Brydon
Photography: Kevin Amato

This is an excerpt from the January 2013 issue of Clash magazine. Find out more about the issue.


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