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Bristol meets Blanco: and it was everything we hoped for and more

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Mykki Blanco, rapper and activist, graced the stage at The Exchange Bristol last weekend and likened his first time in Bristol to a “first date”.

Michael David Quattlebaum Jr. also known as Mykki Blanco is a Chicago born and raised professional wig-snatcher, rapper, poet and activist who is not here to play games. Mykki may have recently crossed your newsfeeds after reciting the provocative poem, “I Want A Dyke For President”, for Dazed.

Blanco does not shy away from difficult conversations, especially those concerning gender and identity. This time last year, Blanco was very vocal and critical of society for failing to accept trans men in the same way they do trans women, describing it as a ‘cultural misogyny’. To the surprise of many, Mykki came out as HIV-Positive in a brief Facebook post, making him the first rapper since Eazy E to carry the virus publicly. Mykki is a resounding ball of strength and fierceness and it comes across in everything he does, especially his performance.

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Mykki is very politically aware and outspoken in his views, which makes him an unapologetic and fun performer to be around. Mykki has a vibrant energy unlike any other artist I have ever seen. A fan I interviewed after the show,  Zahra, described the experience as “too much, but not enough and I want it again, but I’m not ready for it”. Mykki knows no boundaries when performing and often jumped into the crowd to dance with fans. Mykki was accompanied by Toronto’s very own DJ Bambii, who built up the vibe before Blanco came on and maintained the hype throughout. She is definitely one to watch!

I was lucky enough to catch Blanco for a few moments backstage for questions whilst he cleaned up and drank Golden Syrup straight out the bottle. I asked him how he found his first time in Bristol he said he “loved it” and that “the energy was so good”. He mentioned that he had been touring Europe since 2013, but had never ventured out further than London when visiting the UK, and it was important that he connected with fans beyond London.

Mykki was more than just a performance. Another fan at the show stated that he felt Mykki had really “changed things up” from the “boring hetero norm”. In just being present, Mykki Blanco represents change and opportunity for more accepting and liberal spaces for queer people of colour. One fan, Nathan – a graduate from Bath, felt that Mykki Blanco allowed him to realise that there is space for him to “express himself”, as he  had never seen “black queer people on stage” while growing up. In light of Black History Month, I asked Blanco what he loves about blackness he said, “I love my blackness, it’s inherent, you know, we kind of invented music”.

Blanco’s lyrics are incredibly loaded, vulgar and unapologetic. He raps about his identity with such passion. In his most popular song ‘Wavvy’, Mykki addresses his hetero-haters about their lack of acceptance of how he expresses his identity were he says, “What the fuck I gotta prove to a room full/ of dudes/ Who ain’t listening to my words cuz they/ staring at my shoes”. I asked him where he found the confidence to boldly address the elephants in the room surrounding the way he expressed himself, he replied that he was “not always confident about addressing these issues”. At first he would ask, “do people really want to hear that in the song?”, but later knew that it was needed due to the lack of “radical representation in the mainstream” for queer people of colour.

Seeing Mykki Blanco perform live was a liberating experience. His message is one of freedom and truth. Mykki is a gift to the world and he does not tread lightly around your heteronormative feelings. We need more people like Mykki in the world!

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