The rapper and performance artist chats being a freaky bad kid in school, loving the freezing cold and a United States in transition
As part of our States of Independence summer takeover, 50 American indie icons have volunteered to take the Dazed Pop Quiz; a quick-fire Q&A about what they love and loathe about life in the USA. Check back here every day for more from the series.
"Troubled, Changing, Trans." America in 2014 calls for a true poet to represent its changing states. The answer might well lie in Mykki Blanco – the drag rapper persona emblematic of a shift change not only in hip hop, but also in the USA at large. Writing and performing at the intersection of punk poetry, performance art and rap music, Mykki Blanco is the artistic persona of Michael David Quattlebaum Jr. Prior to touring around the world, the young Quattlebaum lived in California and North Carolina before running away from home and landing in NYC, aged just 16. "Mykki" was born as a teenage girl character for a YouTube video in 2010, and has since evolved into more than just a pick-up and put-down persona, with a ferocious and intelligent rap game recording influences as varied as Lil' Kim, Kathleen Hanna, Jean Cocteau, Marilyn Manson and Anaïs Nin. Ahead of dropping debut album Michael, we spoke to Blanco about embracing weirdness, smells of the gods and what needs to change in the U S of A.
Which living American do you most admire and why?
Mykki Blanco: If I had to pick any living American that I most admire it would have to be my mother. She's 60 years old, and for the last 4 years she's been raising her own grandchildren as a single woman – after she has already worked her entire life – whilst also raising my sister and myself as a single parent. She's wonderfully sharp and one of the most practical yet imaginative thinkers I know. My mom's a smart lady and a resilient lady.
Which living American do you most despise and why?
Mykki Blanco: I don't know if despise is the right word, more like I dunno – how can I put this – I wish more Americans cared to see the world, cared to know more about the world than just what our own country dictates. To really try and see the world as more than just America's playground.
Whose face should be on the $100 bill?
Mykki Blanco: As long as I'm getting it I don't care whose face is on the money!
What is your favorite quote about America?
Mykki Blanco: I like that whole "Amber waves of grain" bit, thats always been a pretty little thing to say [from the patriotic song, "America the Beautiful"].
What three words define the States today?
Mykki Blanco: Troubled, Changing, Trans.
Who gave you your first break? Do you still talk?
Mykki Blanco: Aaron Bondaroff. Yeah we talk, he's like my uncle. He'll get a text from me every so often, "Hey I'm in this situation, what should I do?" Ha.
When + where you the most happiest?
Mykki Blanco: I'm the most happiest when I'm in the company of my best friends and we've all slept under the same roof on a weekend trip, or just at each others apartments, and we make breakfast the next morning. That's when I am most happy.
What high school clique were you in? Do you stay in touch?
Mykki Blanco: I hung with the freaky bad kids and then the drama kids. I was always well liked but definitely a weirdo. I still keep in touch with a few, yes.
Ultimate American album?
Mykki Blanco: Bruce Springsteen – Greetings from Asbury Park NJ.
What food reminds you of home?
Mykki Blanco: I think fettucini with shrimp, it's one of my mother's best!
What smell do you associate with the city of your birth?
Mykki Blanco: The smell of honeysuckle. I grew up around tons of honeysuckle bushes, it's the best! And jasmine – jasmine is the smell of the gods!
What's the best road trip you've ever been on?
Mykki Blanco: Touring the Midwest in the DEAD DEAD DEAD of winters. It's a cold world, but something about the freezing cold makes every memory and moment mean so much more.
What would make you leave America forever?
Mykki Blanco: If my family was exiled, that's about it.
What noise reminds you of the States?
Mykki Blanco: New York honking.
What is your favorite American building?
Mykki Blanco: More like an area...South of the border, South Carolina!
Ultimate American film?
Mykki Blanco: Wall Street.
Most overrated US tourist attraction
Mykki Blanco: The Empire State Building.
Most underrated US tourist attraction
Mykki Blanco: Big Sur California
Favorite slang phrase?
Mykki Blanco: In the mix, mixxy, doin' too much, the cunts.
What is your ultimate American guilty pleasure?
Mykki Blanco: It was Anna Nicole Smith, RIP.
What law would you change or invent?
Mykki Blanco: Jesus.
Where in the States would you ride out the apocalypse?
Mykki Blanco: Big Sur California.
When was your last run-in with the cops? What happened?
Mykki Blanco: Portugal. Google it, ha.
If you could change one thing about the US, what would it be?
Mykki Blanco: I'd supply all the green jobs the government keeps putting off every year, and CHILD CARE.
Which fictional American do you most identify with?
Mykki Blanco: Johnny Appleseed.
If you could vote for Obama again, would you?
Mykki Blanco: 100 percent, given the other 2 opponents each election what would you do? Ha.
If you lost it all tomorrow, what would you do the day after?
Mykki Blanco: Head to Saigon.
What will America look like in 2050?
Mykki Blanco: Hopefully cute.
Does the American Dream still exist?
Mykki Blanco: In each and every one of us.