subota, 21. srpnja 2012.

Mykki Blanco & The Mutant Angels

Mykki Blanco (ženska strana osobe koja se zove Michael David Quattlebaum Jr.) - rap je trebao postati queer i drag da bi i meni postao dobar. Ovo je i vizualno ludo.


Mykki čita iz knjige: Jane Hotel + Austin Texas + Freak Jerk

Zebra Katz, Mykki Blanco and the rise of queer rap

In New York, a wave of fearless young gay rappers are claiming their space in the homophobic world of hip-hop – and the mainstream wants a piece of it

Mykki Blanco AKA Mikey Quattlebaum
Mykki Blanco AKA Mikey Quattlebaum. Photo: Kevin Amato
It's easier to be gay in the US army than it is to be gay in hip-hop. As yet, discounting R Kelly's R&B opera, no mainstream hip-hop star has been spotted exiting any closets, since even in a scene where domestic violence and sizzurp-sipping receive the "Only God can judge me" treatment, boy-on-boy action appears to be the last remaining taboo.
But in 2012, a whole wave of fearless gay New York rappers are stepping out and sticking two well-manicured fingers up to the notion that there is no room for them in hip-hop. There have been gay rappers before. Recently, trailblazers like Sissy Nobby and Big Dipper took the risks that made it easier for others to follow. But this year forward-thinking mainstream rappers such as A$AP Rocky, Drake and Nicki Minaj have created a fertile soil for the growth of a new kind of normal. Right on cue, a sizable group of self-coined "queer rappers" have emerged – and they have talent to match the hype.
If you've leafed through the pages of Vogue in the last six months, chances are you've heard of Zebra Katz. And in case you haven't, he's the butch rapper with the strong jaw and the whiplash lyrics who was all over Paris Fashion Week in January. His track Ima Read is a menacing and minimalist industrial chant that has become queer rap's crossover hit.
Zebra Katz Zebra Katz Ojay Morgan, the man behind the Zebra Katz moniker, was still working as a caterer when designer Rick Owens played his track on repeat for the entirety of his catwalk show. What followed was an unadulterated love-in. Azealia Banks DJed the track before performing at a party at Karl Lagerfeld's house; Twitter shout-outs came from the likes of Questlove and RuPaul; and Diplo signed him to his Mad Decent splinter label Jeffree's.
At first glance Ima Read is a pro-education anthem, but a closer look reveals that it's just as much about "reading" – the art of the sophisticated insult that is ubiquitous in the underground ball culture that Morgan grew up on. These balls are the lavish pageants that flourished in the 1980s, drawing black and Latino crowds and awarding prizes for vogueing or the most convincing drag outfits; indeed, it's telling that the new breed of gender-bending New York rappers owe as much to ball legends like DJ Mike Q as they do to Jay-Z or Biggie. The scene and its unique styles were captured brilliantly in the 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning, a big influence on Madonna, and a window into a unique world that offered refuge and identity to New York's most disenfranchised minorities.

"It's great to see where a song can lead you based on your gender identity. The industry uses it as a tool and you have to use it as a tool as well"

Ball shows are accompanied by a quick-witted onslaught of commentary that requires the slickest of flows, a skill at the very heart of what 2012's queer rappers are all about. Morgan has chosen to reference his foremothers, but only very subtly. It is perhaps for this reason that he is the only one of his peers who is currently signed. "As an artist," he says, "it's great to see where a song can lead you based on your gender identity. I think the industry uses it as a tool and you have to use it as a tool as well."
Ball culture has even found its way into mainstream hip-hop. Nicki Minaj is more drag than a drag queen, A$AP Rocky calls himself a "pretty muthafucker", and Willow Smith's Whip My Hair video features vogueing legend Leyomi Mizrahi.
Rashard Bradshaw is Cakes Da Killa, the puppy-faced new kid on the block whose sound is decidedly more straight-up hip-hop than many of his peers, and his humble disposition belies his solid flow. Ironically, he feels that mainstream acclaim has become more tangible the more the scene has chosen to reject it. "You have the masculine crowd who've been doing it for a long time," says Bradshaw. "But it seems like the more feminine rappers are the ones really storming it at the moment."
Perhaps an acceptance of more outwardly feminine rappers is symptomatic of the industry's collective fear of being outed. Rappers in drag are more likely to be compared to Lil' Kim or Azealia Banks than they are to Busta Rhymes or Rick Ross. "So many rappers aren't talking about what's going on in the music industry and how many people are gay," says DJ and scene matriarch Venus X. "If you then have gay rappers who are coming in to tell everything like it is, there's not gonna be any space for the lies any more."
And lying is something that these rappers have absolutely no intention of doing.
Antonio Blair is Dosha Devastation, one half of arthouse speed-rap duo House of LaDosha. He raps in six-inch heels and a weave, with his bushy goatee the only clue as to what's under the sequined bodycon. For Blair, staying true to his art is paramount. "I wanna give people a little bit more credit," he says. "I don't wanna dumb it down." He can't imagine finding a label that would give him the freedom to do what he does, so he'd prefer to go it alone.
Venus X is the female co-founder of Ghe20 Goth1k, the anything-goes New York parties where many of the scene's acts were first showcased. Venus's matriarchal role finds her protective sensibilities piqued at the prospect of outsiders hoping to pilfer the scene's edgy marketability without acknowledging its depth and connotations. On Zebra Katz's record deal, she is forthright: "I would never work with Diplo because he's a heteronormative piece of shit. I would never put gay music on that label. He will just capitalise on whatever is hot at the moment. And being gay is not a question of 'hot', it's just being gay."
This atmosphere of defiance prevails throughout the whole crew. There is little desire for a watered-down version of acceptance – a "love us, love our weaves" attitude allows them to do their thing with little concern as to how it will be received by mainstream hip-hop. Venus X is quick to point out that A$AP Rocky, Sony's latest golden boy, didn't have a clue who she was and what she stood for when he allowed her to appear in his Peso video.
Cakes Da Killa Cakes Da Killa Rapper Mikey Quattlebaum Jr, AKA Mykki Blanco, tells me with zeal about the first time he really dressed up as a woman. He bubbles with mischievous excitement, recounting the range of thugs, creeps and gorgeous males who fell under his spell ("It was like a conduit had opened"). He channelled his new-found creative freedom into making club-focused hip-hop, chock-full of tongue-twisting put-downs that would give Minaj a run for her Benjamins. His latest single, Wavvy, has received Twitter love from the likes of Grimes and Devonté Hynes, and his upcoming mixtape has been produced by current wunderkinds Brenmar and Nguzunguzu among others.
Quattlebaum's heroes are Marilyn Manson and Eminem, household names who conquered the mainstream by doing anything but play by the rules. He feels that the internet is essential to the success of what he is doing now. "The mainstream model of how to be an entertainer was broken down. And now it's literally cool guy versus cool guy."
The sky's the limit for a scene that doesn't fear failure because it is not striving for mainstream notions of success. The ball scene and its offspring will continue doing what they're doing, whether the world is watching or not. And so it is the turn of mainstream hip-hop to adapt and accept the unstoppable influence of queer rap on their universe. "Who was doing it in 2005 before it was trendy and who's gonna do it in 2020 when people are over it?" says Venus X. "It's still gonna be the same people. Because this is the culture that they've created for themselves to survive."  - Clare Considine

"Mykki Blanco is the all-encompassing metropolitan artiste—multi-faceted, multi-talented (poet, rapper, actor and author are just some of her varying vocations), and multi-gendered (Mykki is the womanly side of 24-year-old Michael David Quattlebaum Jr.), the enthusiastic entertainer is armed with an aggressive and impressive flow, a sharp fashion sense, and a rare blend of confidence and humility.
The hard-working entertainer/beloved downtown dignitary has already grabbed the attention of many eyeballs and eardrums alike, thanks in large part to collaborations with photographer Terry Richardson (who chose the emerging artist to be a part of the campaign he shot for Happy Socks, along with model Ashley Smith and Harlem lyricist of the moment A$AP Rocky), a book of poetry (From The Silence Of Duchamp To The Noise Of Boys) sold at chic magnets Opening Ceremony and LA's OHWOW Gallery, as well as opening slots alongside acts like Gang Gang Dance and ARABMUZIK. Mykki's busy as ever, with two new albums and a one-woman show all set to debut this summer, a fact that should come as no surprise given the cute and candid performer's track record thus far. Meeting up for a quick bite in NoHo, Interview spoke to the soon-to-be star about her foray into transgendered living, her journey to and through New York City, and her exciting new projects.

ALEX CHAPMAN: So I guess the first thing I'd like to know is where you grew up.
MYKKI BLANCO: I'm originally from San Mateo, California, and Raleigh, North Carolina. I grew up in both equally for eight years—it was kinda scattered. I lived in California as a small child and then moved to North Carolina, but I used spend every summer with my grandparents in California. When I was 16, I ran away to New York and had that experience, and after I was 16 I lived in California until I was 20, and then moved to Chicago to go to the Art Institute.
CHAPMAN: What was it like when you came to New York at such a young age?
BLANCO: When I first came here as a teenager it was 2003 or 2004. Things were very different—the artist exodus and yuppie-fication of things were definitely under way, but things were still way grittier. I just remember the city being a really dark playground. A lot of people don't know this, but during that time was when I began to cross-dress. I started dressing like a girl during that period, and actually being mistaken for a girl because I was 16. That, I would say, would be the very beginning inklings of my "transgendered life."
CHAPMAN: Was that life something you discovered when you came to New York, or something you just could never be anywhere else?
BLANCO: Well, I considered myself gay for so long, and 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! It literally is a mindfuck to go through life as a guy, and then to dress as a woman and get cat-called on the street, get men running up to you, asking for your phone number, your e-mail address; to meet men online and have them be smokin' hot. It's like a whole entire road opened up and in a lot of ways, it made my life so much better.
CHAPMAN: I'm sure that can be pretty empowering.
BLANCO: It was like a flowering. In my heart and my mind, that two-spirit side of myself—all of my feminine energy and power—flowered, and that's a really mystical and ancient concept that's mirrored in many cultures, both indigenous western and eastern. I shouldn't oversimplify it and say just because I received positive sexual attention from men I continue to cross-dress—it was literally all the chakras aligning, and that sexual energy is a part of life.
CHAPMAN: It's funny that it's such a point of conversation now, given that only a few decades ago, New York culture's best audience and innovators were members or intense supporters of the gay and transgender community.
BLANCO: The AIDS epidemic killed out an entire generation of fun and amazing people, and people often forget that New York City, from like the '20s through '80s was littered—and I use the word littered for the reason—with transgendered people. Seeing a transvestite on the street was like drinking water—they were everywhere!
CHAPMAN: It seems like artists compromise their work much more now as a result, but that's obviously something you do not do.
BLANCO: We're living in a time where the mediocrity of mainstream pop culture is at an all-time high—I don't need to go into the cultural implications of a Teen Mom phenomenon or a Jersey Shore phenomenon. But when people talk to me about a mainstream crossover, about gays in hip-hop, I address the issue, but it literally defines me the least compared to everything else. You can't tell me that with Sylvester, the gay disco legend, a millionaire, superstar for his time, RuPaul, or someone I identify with like Marilyn Manson—the anti-Christ superstar of America when he was at his height—you can't tell me what I'm doing doesn't have a place. When someone like Big Freedia is out there doing Late Show With Jimmy Kimmel—her fan base is huge. Who gives a fuck [about being mainstream]? I'm not trying to be in the 40/40 Club popping bottles while rappers throw hundred-dollar bills on strippers. I'm just out to make my audience happy, fulfill my creative vision, and be successful on my own terms, which is doable.
CHAPMAN: You certainly haven't had to change against your own will, or in any way that isn't you, to do some high-profile stuff.
BLANCO: It's funny because as an underground artist, I've been afraid to talk about the things that I've done for fear of seeming boastful or arrogant. But at this point, it's like "No!" I'm not gonna have these mainstream kids out here ripping people off and taking ideologies. It's not even really about that, but I'm not gonna have these mainstream kids out here thinking they're on the come-up when my pedigree is extensive! It's like, "Don't play." [laughs]
CHAPMAN: It's definitely important for people to know real artists out here, especially when they don't always get the big-time attention they deserve.
BLANCO: And that's the thing. Mainstream artists, they have publicists, agents, and marketing outlets—these machines. I only have me, but this is what I'm good at and I have to do it.
CHAPMAN: So when did you start performing?
BLANCO: As a teenager. I came into this life via a performance-art context. My roots are in theater—I was a child actor. I guess I would've liked to be in a punk band when I was a teenager, but it was more about my friends and I writing our own little shitty songs and half-heartedly performing them. It wasn't until I moved to New York that I became really serious about performing music. In 2010, I really discovered I was good at this and it was what my life path was developing into.
CHAPMAN: And what happened to make you take it on as a career?
BLANCO: This is the complete trajectory—I wrote, wrote, wrote, wrote, wrote. I started performing out in the city. June 17, 2011, my first book was published. After that book came out, there was a storm of media attention. The music I've made for my first release, which will be Mykki Blanco and The Mutant Angels, some of the songs from that release, the lyrics are the poems in the book. While I was touring and performing the work of the book, Mykki Blanco was just growing and growing. It was an internal thing—it wasn't something that I had begun to think about as my livelihood. I was living the duality of Mykki, I was cross-dressing everyday and exploring the lifestyle—I had a pretty wild summer, actually! It wasn't until I began to combine the repertoire of Mykki's work with the work from the book that things really began to take off.
CHAPMAN: And the whole thing has taken on a really genuine tone, which I'm assuming is because it all comes from you.
BLANCO: I'm not gonna lie—I could use the advance money from a label. Anyone could! But let me put it to you like this: The more noise I keep making, and the more I release quality music, I have no doubt that someone's gonna try to hit me up. Larger labels, people in high positions who control culture, wanna remain in those positions of controlling culture. When an independent artist starts making too much money or getting a little too much attention, that's when you start hearing calls from the big fish. But to be as accepted as I have from the music world, the art world, the fashion world—I just had no idea that following your heart could lead you to being so fulfilled and so happy. I haven't had to kiss ass and social climb, and I'm so lucky for that—I have so many talented friends that, due to the nature of their careers, don't have that creative freedom. To have that is a blessing and I never take it for granted.
CHAPMAN: So tell me about the music projects you're working on right now.
BLANCO: These are the three important Mykki Blanco projects: The first release, with UNO NYC, is Mykki Blanco and the Mutant Angels. That is a project I did with DJ Physical Therapy and artist Jeffrey Joyal. We basically created music as a band, but it was a one-time project with my writing.
CHAPMAN: What's that going to sound like?
BLANCO: That's my more industrial psych-rock stuff, and it's coming out late spring. I'm choosing to release that first because everyone's heard the hip-hop and is waiting for a hip-hop release, but I want people to know the full scope of me. Then, a single from that release is being made into a seven-inch, two-sided record with OHWOW gallery. The second project is Mykki Blanco: Cosmic Angel (The Rebirth of The Showgirl), which is my rap project and will be out this summer. For my third project, I'll be directing and producing my first musical concert in late May for The Living Theatre, which will have a full-week run.
CHAPMAN: That's a lot of stuff! Did you plan for it to all smash together?
BLANCO: I didn't plan for it, but everyday in the morning, for extra energy, I drink a raw garlic smoothie with fruit. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain by working hard. To have this be the beginning of my career and receive this much positive support—I cannot waste a fucking minute, and I'd be a fool to waste a minute."  - Alex Chapman

"MYKKI BLANCO did not spring from nowhere. Rather, she emerged, Venus-like, one day last summer, when Michael David Quattlebaum Jr. decided to step out for the first time in head-to-toe drag, including a black bathing suit with padded breasts and fake Chanel purse. 
“I call it my golden-ticket day,” Mr. Quattlebaum said, recounting how he (or rather “she”) was hit on five times. “It was like Pandora’s box opened.”
Since then Mykki Blanco, Mr. Quattlebaum’s glamazon alter ego, has become a redoubtable presence on the downtown art and cabaret scene. More avant-garde objet d’art than drag queen, Mykki wears a fearsome honey-brown wig while performing allusive rap with a radical-gay bent.
Mr. Quattlebaum has been spotted at such A-list venues as Art Basel Miami Beach, Santos Party House and Le Baron, straddling the worlds of rap and performance art just as nonchalantly as he blurs male and female.
Although Elle magazine declared Mykki “hip-hop’s new queen” on its culture blog, Mr. Quattlebaum rejected the term “gay rapper,” describing his creation as “a mixture of riot grrrl and ghetto fabulousness.”
Androgyny is the animating force of his debut EP, “Mykki Blanco & The Mutant Angels,” a febrile punk record that draws on his 2011 book of poems, “From the Silence of Duchamp to the Noise of Boys.” In an accompanying music video for the track “Join My Militia,” a scantily clad Mykki stumbles through a “Blair Witch Project”-looking park, dressed (by the end) in nothing but a dead octopus.
“I’m using hip-hop as a performance medium,” he said, sounding like a graduate student defending a thesis.
Indeed, the 25-year-old is an art-school dropout twice over (three semesters at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, one at Parsons the New School for Design), who recently quit his day job at a bookstore and lives in Harlem with two roommates.
Ask about his influences, and he will mention such incongruous names as Lauryn Hill, Kathleen Hanna, Jean Cocteau and Anaïs Nin. His poems, which Interview magazine called “impassioned and sometimes illicit,” cross images of hedonistic nights in Chinatown (“I called Smith’s quits / I ran down Lafayette in an / adrenaline blitz”) with references to Rilke and Sisyphus.
But his literary efforts mostly fuel his outré live persona. Even out of drag, Mr. Quattlebaum strikes a gaudy appearance: turquoise nails, an earring shaped like a Tylenol tablet, a tattoo of the Star of David on his biceps. (His father’s side is African-American Jewish.)
“I always knew I was going to live a fringe lifestyle,” he said.
As an adolescent in Raleigh, N.C., he was obsessed with alternative icons, tearing through books about Iggy Pop, Bette Midler and Madonna. At 15, he founded a performance collective, Paint In Consciousness Experimental Theater, for which he won an Independent Spirit Award.
But he yearned for the big city.
“I wrote an e-mail to Vincent Gallo being like: ‘I adore you. I know that you ran away to New York City when you were 16,’ ” Mr. Quattlebaum said. “He wrote back: ‘Don’t come to New York. You’re an idiot.’ ”
That didn’t stop him. One night in 2002, he stole $100 from his mother’s wallet and took a Greyhound bus to Manhattan. He had nowhere to sleep, so he stayed up all night or crashed with men he met in bars. When his luggage was stolen near Tompkins Square Park, he rebuilt his wardrobe from thrift stores and shoplifting.
At night, he would go wherever Index Magazine or Paper said to go, and nearly always ended up at the Cock, an East Village gay bar, where he met Alexander McQueen and Ryan McGinley.
“I did the go-go boy contest a couple of times,” he said. “I would get, like, $50 for being the only one who was willing to get completely nude.”
Life as a teenage runaway was “hyper-romantic,” he said. But eventually, his mother (who had hired an investigator to track him down) relented and sent him money to stay at a hostel. After three months, he went home, where he was grounded.
He did not return to New York until 2008, when he was accepted to Parsons. After dropping out, he made inroads with an established art crowd, including Kathy Grayson, an art dealer and Jeffrey Deitch’s protégé, and Aaron Bondaroff, a founder of the gallery and publisher Ohwow. But he still had not found a voice of his own.
“One night, Kathy Grayson said to me: ‘You don’t want to be the artsy person at the party. You want to be the artist,’ ” he recalled.
It was good advice. Mr. Quattlebaum poured his attention into writing “From the Silence of Duchamp,” which Ohwow published last June. His poems gave voice to a rebel soul adrift, and typified his “dirty, live-your-art” ethos.
They also gave him a chance to reinvent himself. He had been performing hypermasculine industrial-rock under the moniker No Fear. Mykki Blanco, initially created for a video project, was the yin to No Fear’s yang.
“Mykki Blanco was this cosmic union in my mind,” he said. But Mr. Quattlebaum didn’t know the full power of his creation until he took it to the streets.
Almost immediately, on his “golden ticket” day, a guy on the subway hit on him, and more followed. No longer a “hustler-boy fantasy,” he was now an irrepressible drag knockout.
“It’s different from feeling sexy,” Mr. Quattlebaum said of discovering his new identity. “All of a sudden, you feel pretty. And when you start to feel pretty: oh, boy, look out.”- MICHAEL SCHULMAN

Nema komentara:

Objavi komentar