New Yorker Michael David Quattlebaum Jr is many different things. At varying times, he is a man, a woman, a poet, a rapper, a glamour model, a hipster and a social commentator.
When he gets on stage with a microphone, he is usually Mykki Blanco, his female alter-ego who happens to be one of the most exciting rappers on the planet. Quattlebaum ran away from his North Carolina home, aged 16, for New York before spending time in California and Chicago.
The Blanco character first came to underground prominence in the US in 2011, with the release of his poetry book From the Silence of Duchamp to theNoise of Boys. Marrying wordplay to music, the hip-hop element was thenbulked as the character developed. Blanco was soon lumped into a new wave of exciting, mainly New York-based rappers including A$AP Rocky and Danny Brown, artists who eschewed the old notion of what a stereotypically homophobic US rapper is with their more liberal views.
‘I see myself as someone who uses hip-hop to express ideas,’ he says. ‘I rap, but I’m not in the hip-hop world, so I wouldn’t know if the landscape has changed in the genre.’ Indeed, he’s in his own world. Earning both hipster credentials with his madcap fashion sense and critical acclaim with his quick-fire rapping and inventive music, the future is looking as bright as his often-garish stage wear.
His 2012 mixtape, Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati/Prince/ss, has just scratchedthe surface of an unpredictably thrilling talent. ‘As much as I want my work to read with integrity,’ he has said when discussing his career plan, ‘I also love glamour and I have no problem being a careerist. You’ve got to knock the humbleness off… When it comes down to it, I’m a bad bitch, and I’m going to continue to be one.’