I am less than a year away from turning 30 and I am still learning how to be myself. On most days I feel in tune with who I am and celebrate my passions, abilities, and dispositions. But every now and then, insecurity gets the best of me and I shrink down parts of my identity in order to appease the limited imaginations of others, or to simply get through the day without having to explain myself. Consciously or subconsciously, I'm always searching for a method that will teach me how to be authentic no matter what. In a lot of ways, discovering Mykki Blanco's music has given me the audacity to do just that. The hypnotic throb of "The Initiation," the trill of "Loner," and unshakable urgency of *Mykki*have taught me that the complexity of our identities and how we define ourselves should never be stifled or static.
For Mykki, who describes herself as "someone who stumbled into being an entertainer," the celebration of selfhood is essential. Early on, Mykki wrote poetry and made noise rock, since then her evolution into hip-hop has been both, each of her EPs and mixtapes challenging the narrow standards of the genre. Mykki , her debut solo album which releases this Friday, is an unapologetic portrait of an artist on her own terms, no one else's.
I spoke with Mykki one morning over the phone about how poetry and no-wave led to hip-hop, why she decided to go public with her HIV diagnosis, and the importance of creating your own audience.
Dianca Potts: Can you talk a bit about how you got into making music?
Mykki Blanco: I didn't start making music until I was 25. It was after I wrote a book of narrative poetry called From the Silence of Duchamp to the Noise Of Boys , which was published by Moran Bondaroff, a gallery in New York. I started doing readings and I was like, I have to find a way to engage people beyond readings because no one listens to poetry. So, sort of inspired by Suicide, this no-wave band from the '70s, and my background in theater, which I did as a kid, I started a band with my friends [Jeff Joyle and Daniel Fisher] called No Fear. It was basically me reciting my poetry over these industrial loops and harsh noise, and that was the first time that I made music. Eventually that project collapsed on itself, but I kept performing and I started producing on my own. I was performing in galleries or organizing shows in weird places, but it wasn't necessarily music.
I had the idea of doing this video art project about a teenage girl who wanted to become a famous female rapper and that was Mykki Blanco. It started out as these artsy comedy videos and then eventually — since Mykki had these dreams of becoming a famous rapper — she started to rap. I started making little loops and different beats in GarageBand and performing with that. People were really responding to it, and saying, "You're actually a good rapper, is this still a joke or are you going to start making music?" It wasn't until Charles Damga, who ended up being my first manager, told me, "You're actually making music even though you don't realize it and maybe I can help you streamline this," that I started taking music seriously and kind of left the art-world context.
I'm genuinely someone who stumbled into being an entertainer. If you told me at 20 that by 30 I was going to be an indie rapper, I would have been like, "No, that's not right, I'm going to be a curator."