Mykki Blanco returns to Grinnell

Halley Freger

fregerha@grinnell.edu

Photo by Matt Kartanata

Photo by Matt Kartanata

New York based rapper Mykki Blanco has been busy releasing new music and starting her own label since she last played Grinnell in the spring of 2013. On Thursday, Oct. 1 at 8:30 p.m, Mykki Blanco will return to Grinnell’s very own Gardner Lounge. Opening for Mykki Blanco is U.K.-based electronic musician, producer and DJ Ikonika (Sara Abdel-Hamid).

Mykki Blanco is more than a rapper—she’s an activist, a performance artist and a poet. And she’s especially more than just a “gay rapper,” often expressing frustration when she’s lumped together with other queer artists with completely different sounds who just happen to be gay and black.

Trying to categorize Mykki Blanco is like trying not to dance to her breakout single “Wavvy”—it’s impossible. The multi-talented and genderqueer performer has diverse influences. Growing up, she was inspired by the ’90s feminist punk movement known as Riot Grrrl and artists such as Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna. She even features Kathleen Hanna on “A Moment with Kathleen,” a spoken word piece on her 2014 mixtape, “Gay Dog Food.” She also cites rapper Lil’ Kim as an influence, and the inspiration for the name Mykki Blanco, a reference to Lil’ Kim’s alter ego Kimmy Blanco.

Mykki Blanco experiments with a variety of sounds. The electronic, lo-fi quality on “Gay Dog Food” is reminiscent of Kathleen Hanna’s band Le Tigre. Her first EP, “Mykki Blanco and the Mutant Angels,” co-created with DJ Physical Therapy and Jeffrey Joyal as the band, incorporates industrial, Marilyn Manson-inspired sounds. Ultimately, the music Mykki Blanco creates, sometimes dark and industrial, sometimes melodic, sometimes bouncy and fun, is definitely unlike anything you’ve heard before.

Music can do a lot—it can entertain, it can heal, it can bring people together. Most musicians don’t set out to change the world, but if anyone’s actually capable of doing this it’s Mykki Blanco. In March, Mykki Blanco posted on her Facebook page about wanting to start a career in investigative journalism in order to find a way to “influence our world in a way a dance song and music video cannot.” However, instead of leaving the music world, Mykki Blanco decided to radically change it from the inside.

Last week, she released “C-ORE,” an album from Yves Tumor, Psychoegyptian and Violence. “C-ORE” is the first album released on Dogfood Music Group, her new record label/radical performance group/shining beacon of light in the music world. In her article in Dazed & Confused Magazine, Mykki Blanco refers to Dogfood as a group that is “unafraid to take over ‘white spaces’ and decontextualize them to create our own environments, our own safe spaces, our own visibility within the unavoidable supremacist patriarchy that is western civilization.” That might seem like a huge task, but at minimum Mykki Blanco aims to use musical performance to challenge various systems of oppression related to gender, sexuality and race.

So, is Mykki Blanco changing the world? Come see for yourself in Gardner Lounge this coming Thursday, Oct. 1 at 9 p.m, when she performs with Hyperdub Records’ Ikonika. Ikonika combines melodic synths, futuristic chips and pounding bass in her unique take on U.K. garage and dubstep.