mykki blanco on returning to music, alternative black culture and his new crew
Back in March, Mykki was quitting music. He didn’t want to write rhymes for other people’s beats. But now he’s back, with a record label of his own, repping alternative black music and searching for the next female alt star.
When an artist makes the grand statement that they're exiting the industry, but pops back up six months later with a new release, we collectively roll our eyes at the marketing machine and move on. However, everything about Mykki Blanco's surprise reemergence onto the music scene feels genuine, and genuinely different.
Back in March, Mykki told the world, via Facebook, that "writing words that rhyme over beats made by other people, mostly male, no longer interests me," saying that he was quitting music for investigative journalism, researching gay culture and LGBT rights around the world. But he found a way to come back to the music, one that isn't dictated by others and that allows him to present his vision, uncompromised: record label !K7 gave Mykki his own imprint, Dogfood Music Group (DMG), and free reign to make the music he wants with artists he chooses.
With a stated mission to represent artists "outside of the black American norm" and to disrupt the "singular image of 'African American Music'," DMG launches with a full length label sampler entitled C-ORE. Featuring two new tracks by Blanco, the album also introduces his initial label stable: PsychoEgyptian, Yves Tumor and Violence. As C-ORE launches, we caught up with Mykki to meet his new collaborators and talk influences, mission statements and what's next for their disruptive music project.
The C-ORE preview is awesome, Coke White, Starlight is massive and we're so glad it's here, because six months ago, you said that you were quitting music. What changed?
Mykki: Sometimes you see things happening in the world and you want to physically help change them, you want to give of yourself or at least I did. I'm a very passionate person and I used to think of that as a bad thing "being too much" but to be honest most people in my opinion don't care enough. The entertainment industry is always me me me u have to unplug from that at times.
PyschoEgyptian opened for you at Afropunk in 2013, and you've said that all the C-ORE artists are your close friends. How did you meet and start working with them?
Mykki: Psycho Egyptian aka Devin Cuthbertson is as New York as it gets; he's NYC through and through -- he showed me the ropes when I first got into the city. He's a low key legend to be honest and he's one of the most uncompromising people I've ever met. He never has to show off, his work is authentic to him always and I admire that.
Yves Tumor aka Sean Bowie is one of the most sophisticated and talented musicians I have actually ever known and his taste level is up there with the greats in my opinion. He's also a really, really good performer and his back catalogue of work is extensive.
Violence is the only performer I've seen now of late who can combined self-production skills with actual live instrumental mastery. The lyrics to his songs always have really complex and intricate meanings but he's not pretentious and his work isn't pretentious, it's actually really primal and spiritual.
When your new !K7 imprint Dogfood Music Group launched, you said that you wanted to disrupt the "singular image of 'African American Music'". What do you think that singular image is?
Mykki: What I mean and all I mean is that black Americans create more than just rap music. That's it, I said that in a press release so ya know I had to intellectualise it but it's like when you're in the airport on tour and someone comes up and says, "What basketball team do you guys play for?" -- its like, are you fucking kidding me? It's the same sentiment.
Do you think the Afropunk festival and community are also helping to disrupt that image?
Mykki: Afropunk shows me a lot support, I was 13 when that scene started in online communities in the early 2000s, I think hip-hop is actually pretty progressive these days. I mean, what that genre even means has changed a lot in the last 2-3 years musically, just again all Black people don't just rap like hip hop is golden, but not everyone's a rapper.
Who or what are the C-ORE artists inspired by? Do you have any musical or film influences? A Youtube commenter compared scenes in the C-ORE short film to Mathieu Kassovitz's 1995 film La Haine, about violent suburbs in Paris.
Yves Tumor: Mykki's letting artists speak for themselves.
Violence: I try to take inspiration from everything I interact with. I'm trying to integrate as much of my life, right now, in these places, in this political climate, interacting with the same pop media everyone else is, interacting with artists on the outskirts, taking everything I love, hate, and am indifferent to and combining them.
Yves Tumor: Teratism, Vereker, Witch
You launched the C-ORE project with a psychedelic, 11 minute-long video epic. How did the idea for this come about? Is video work as important as music to the collective?
Violence: The idea for the C-ORE video came about through us all sitting around and throwing ideas at each other. It had a more nature-y vibe before me and Yves suggested some things that pushed it into a darker place, I think.
Yves Tumor: Yes! a proper visual aid is so necessary.
C-ORE is crazy-eclectic and definitely sounds hardcore and alternative, but would you say it is a queer project?
Violence: I think C-ORE is a political gesture, but it's also homies coming together and combining our efforts on music we think motherfuckers need to hear. It feels queer in that none of the members perfectly subscribe to any doctrine or culture of gender normalcy. Myself, VIOLENCE, I do not align nor am I interested in conforming to any gender standards. They are cultural contraptions, things to be understood and denounced. I feel that as a goal, this anti-adherence, is almost impossible to fully attain; despite that, I'll continue to try.
When Dogfood Music launched, the release said you selected artists with an emphasis on how their music practice is closely intertwined with their live shows. What can we expect from a C-ORE live tour? Please tell us you're coming to London!
Yves Tumor: The live shows will be like an episode of "Beyond Scared Straight" & YES we are coming to London. We're playing Illuminations festival on Nov 6th at Laundry.
Outside of the live shows, what is the ideal environment for people to listen to the C-ORE album in?
Yves Tumor: Uber Pool.
Violence: The ideal environment for people to listen to C-ORE would be wherever they feel comfortable listenin to some shit, idk. Its intense, packed to the brim, brutal, hype af, and there's so much to listen to, you might as well listen to it in a bunch of different environments. Interact with it, hear the details, find new ones, a maze of sounds and grooves and complexity.
You have two tracks on the album, Coke White, Starlight and Paw. Will we see a full Mykki Blanco album release at some point?
Mykki: Jeremiah Meece & Woodkid are producing my new album. I'm also working on my first movie
What's next for Dogfood Music - are you going to bring more artists on board? Who would you love to release music by?
Mykki: A woman. The next project needs and has to be a woman. Cis, Trans, doesn't matter, it will be a female producer/musician/performer.
C-ORE is out now on Dogfood Music Group and the artists are playing Illuminations festival in London on 6th November.
Photography courtesy PR