Mykki Blanco is a 25-year-old cross-dressing artist who lives in Harlem, New York. I'm sure you've probably already heard of him — his single ‘Wavvy’ has well over 800,000 views on YouTube, and there aren’t too many gender-bending rappers. I couldn’t hang out with him in real life, so I caught up with him on the phone for Oyster #103: The Hang Out In Real Life Issue, while he was shopping for lingerie (part of his new look: skater hooker!).
Jamie Taete: Hey Mykki! How are you doin’?
Mykki Blanco: I'm good!
What are you up to today?
I'm in New York City. I just got back from my European tour, and since I've been back I've just been doing press all day.
Do you like doing interviews?
Yeah, I do, as long as they're concise. People ask me a lot of the same questions, so I have to get used to that.
Yeah, I actually just read a bunch of interviews with you and it was the same stuff over and over. Like, ‘being a gay rapper’, ‘cross dressing’, ‘Frank Ocean’… Does it get annoying having to talk about the same stuff over and over?
To be honest, not yet, because most of the people who do it are people who have never written about me before, and they wanna expose me to a wider audience. So, that's not annoying. I'm not stupid — I have to accept the fact that I'm growing in notoriety and I'm not famous yet.
Speaking of: why do you think you've been able to have the kind of crossover that a lot of gay artists haven't been able to have?
There are a lot of rappers who are gay, I guess. With a lot of them, the crutch of their career is being very silly or funny or hot — which is fine, but they aren’t really rappers. I think with me and the new crop of people that are coming out, we're very dedicated to the music, and I think people see that. I also think that my crossover has a lot to do with the fact that I come from a punk background, and that's really relatable in the heterosexual community.
I read that, back when you were a teen, you wrote to a bunch of your favourite artists.
That's true. I wrote to Le Tigre, Vincent Gallo, Beck's mom, Vaginal Creme Davis...
Did you hear back from them?
Yeah! I heard back from all of them.
When I was like, 13, I wrote to Drew Barrymore and never heard back. Seven years later, I randomly got a signed Drew Barrymore photo in the mail, out of nowhere. And by that time I'd forgotten that I wrote to her in the first place, so it was super confusing. What kind of responses did you get?
I wrote to Vincent Gallo when I ran away to New York, and he was just like, “You're an idiot! Don't run away to New York. But if you get sick, email me again.” That was weird. Then I wrote to Le Tigre and they wrote back this really inspirational ‘Power to You!’ letter. It was, like, pro-gay, pro-feminist.
Have you met any of these people or any of your other idols?
No. I really want to meet Kathleen Hanna; I talked to her about doing a song with Julie Ruin. But most of my idols are dead… I met Linda Evangelista, which was pretty amazing. And, when I was in Miami, I swam next to Iggy Pop.
Did you talk to him?
Nope. I just swam by him [laughs]. You know what's so funny? I'm in Victoria's Secret now.
Oh, you're out shopping?
Yeah, I'm looking for pyjama shorts. I've gotten really into wearing oversized women's PJs and mixing them with boy clothes. My new look is, like, ‘skater hooker’.
Has your mom heard your music?
Yeah, my mom gets on Twitter every single day and reads what I say. She sees everything. If she doesn't like something, she tells me. I'm very, very close to my mother. She can definitely tell me when I'm being crazy.
When was the last time she told you that you were being crazy?
She told me the other day to stop using Twitter as my personal diary. She told me I was tweeting too much, and I was like, “You're right.” She said I had to start building a mystique. And I was like, “You know what? You're exactly right. That's why you're my mom.”
Does she like your music?
She does. She wishes I didn't curse so much, but she does understand.
Do you have a boyfriend right now?
No… I have boyfriends [laughs]. I'm really into being single, and I feel like I'm at a place where I couldn't, like, give to someone the way that they would really need.
Who's your biggest celebrity crush?
Hmm… Who do I think is, like, really cool?
Wait — so you have crushes on people you think are cool?
Yeah. I pretty much only have crushes on people I think are cool.
Ugh! I'm jealous. I'm the complete opposite of that. I'm almost exclusively attracted to embarrassingly lame people.
I usually like freaks. Like, really artsy, freaky guys. I also usually like roughnecks and punk guys — anyone who has a strong sense of self and doesn't give a fuck. I think to date a transvestite, and to be OK with that in public, or to date someone who is a hyper-feminine, gender-bending guy, you kinda have to be someone who really doesn't give a what.
If a kid were to write to you now, asking for advice, what would you tell them?
I would tell them to seriously follow and pursue their dreams. Because it's really not for anyone to ever tell you that you can't do something. Know what I mean? That's one of the most inappropriate things that people feel they can say to other people. I just think it's really important that kids are inspired and they know that no one is trying to take away what they have, or belittle them, or make them feel as if they can't achieve something they really want to achieve.
Read Mykki Blanco's full interview in Oyster #103 — out now.
Jamie Taete is the West Coast Editor at Vice.