Michael Quattlebaum Jr., better known as Mykki Blanco, is a singular presence in hip-hop, not just because he’s part of the first wave of openly queer rappers to gain traction with an audience outside the queer community but simply because there’s no other hip-hop artists who look, sound, or act like him. On his new mixtape Gay Dog Food he shows off some of the blunt-instrument flow that he built his reputation on, but spends far more time channeling Iggy Pop with an elastic sprechgesang that he uses to deliver hallucinatory lyrics about freaks, drugs, and kinky sex, wallowing in transgressive behavior with manic glee over beats engineered for maximum sonic filth. It’s one of the year’s most bracing rap records, and signals Mykki Blanco’s elevation from a new artist to keep an eye out for to an icon who demands attention. A few days before Gay Dog Food‘s release EW spoke to him by phone about where’s he’s been and where’ he’s heading.
EW: Gay Dog Food is much more sonically aggressive than your past work. Where did that come from?
MYKKI BLANCO: It’s gross. To be honest, it’s just gross. On Mykki Blanco & the Mutant Angels, I was playing around with industrial loops and weird, gnarled, chopped-and-screwed, grungy vocals. It was super shitty and super lo-fi—not in the pretty, packaged, lo-fi way, but a “I made this in GarageBand and I don’t know how to make anything” way. I actually like a lot of the stuff I made at that time, but it was also kind of a trial and error, where I realized I wasn’t a producer but more of a songwriter and performer.
When I was approaching different producers, like my friend Gobby who was executive producer [of Gay Dog Food] and produced five tracks, I let him know certain buzzwords. I was like, I wanna make music that sounds like it’s coming out of white noise. I want to take these crunchy sounds, like an air conditioning unit and a blender, and I just wanna make some shit that’s hard, but not in a cliched way. We already have Death Grips. We already have System of a Down. We already have Limp Bizkit. We already have people who make loud, noisy music in a particular style, and I wanted Gay Dog Food to have that f–king pumped-up hardcore energy, but to reflect me, and to be a little more pensive and feminine. The yin to the yang.
You’re releasing this album with a lot more eyes on you than before. What’s it been like for you to get the exposure that you have over the past couple years?
I’d say I’m happy that it’s steadily grown. I realize now that more people are watching. I guess sometimes there are things I said early on that I hadn’t said then but can say now, you know what I mean? Like I wish more people were watching when I did this thing because that was such a cool thing? To be honest, I think I still have so much more to f–king learn. I feel like I still can get so much better in every respect. I’m really doing what I always wanted to do, in this little two years that I’ve had this career, which is to actually develop a f–king studio practice. I’m already recording new music now, and basically for the next seven months I’ll be recording. Obviously I have to continue doing shows here and there and tour for money, but it’s like, now is the time where I’m actually going to make my best music.
I follow you on Twitter, and sometimes it seems like you’re conflicted about some of the attention that you’ve received. That sometimes you’re dissatisfied with how you’re portrayed in different ways. Is that true?
I think that I’ve felt that at times I couldn’t help the nagging feeling that if who I was fit more in some mainstream mold, that a song may have gone farther. To be honest I remember when my song “Haze.Boogie.Life” came on a friend—he didn’t say this to make me feel bad, it was just the f–king truth—he was like, you have one of the hottest f–king songs right now, but because you’re a gay rapper, people are trying to turn a blind eye toward it. If Lil Wayne or somebody came out with this song, it would be on the radio.
It seems like you’ve also been frustrated at times at being put in this box called “gay rapper.”
Yeah. To be honest, I guess I feel really annoyed by that, because if you listen to a record like Gay Dog Food, do you really just want to call me a gay rapper? It annoys me less that it’s confining. It annoys me because it’s stupid. With the music I’m making right now, if you don’t even want to call me a rapper, that’s okay.