Available on: UNO NYC
Mykki Blanco’s short career has been marked by defied expectations and confounded audiences. In just over a year, Michael Quattlebaum Jr.’s art-rap alias has released an industrial/noise/poetry EP, an underground-embracing, party-rap mixtape, and now, with Betty Rubble: The Initiation, an even more evolved, personal sound. If you’re looking for a mission statement, look no further than lead cut ‘Angggry Byrdz’: “The people want something new / No fear y’all, I got you.”
Over eight tracks and thirty minutes, the only constant is Mykki Blanco herself: equal parts glam and grime, Blanco is just as likely to fight you as she is to fuck you, with the bluster of both a street rap MC and a vogue house commentator. Her style follows from that singular character, as her flow alternates between poetic free verse and battle-ready punchline rap, often in the same song. Musically, Blanco has teamed with producers whose tracks organically draw from hip-hop and dance music traditions; the last year has proven that these boundaries aren’t just disappearing — they’re already gone.
Sonically, Betty Rubble is as brash as its main character. ‘David Blaine Bitches’ is all squealing, jerking swagger, ‘Crisp Clean’ is a pneumatic rumbler, ‘Bugged Out’ is hazy and anxious (due in large part to a beat by Supreme Cuts), and so on. Meanwhile, the straight-up rap tracks that dominated the Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss mixtape have a single representative, ‘Feeling Special’. The track distills Mykki’s essense into something that is (comparatively) easy to swallow, as she bellows commands (“follow me down the rabbit hole”), spits her finest venom (“Who got the Summer’s Eve / I’m ‘bout to douche these bitches / make you a punchline in my joke / Lenny Bruce you, nigga”), and rides a deceptively complex take on snap rap (with Matrixxman playing DJ Mustard).
Unsurprisingly, the EP takes more unexpected turns than Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. ‘The Initiation’, which begins with the DMX-like pronouncement “Hell is chilly motherfucker,” finds Mykki chanting in Latin over a paranoid, siren-heavy Sinden soundscape. “Carpe noctem / carpe diem / Deo confidimus” (“seize the night / seize the day / In God we trust”) is a hypnotic leitmotif that makes the song feel like a séance, and while it’s well suited to Mykki’s dramatic, performance-art live shows, I can’t help but feeling that it would have made a stronger opening track. Later on, just when the listener has adjusted to the darkly tweaked beats and off-kilter rap of Betty Rubble, Blanco drops a ’90s throwback in the form of ‘Ace Bougie Chick’: while it’s complete with jazzy piano fills, a two-stepping groove, and a soulful chorus, this tale of down-low love is far from conventional.
In the style of Mykki’s Matrixxman collaboration ‘God Created The Beat’, Betty Rubble closes with ‘Vienna’, a spoken-word journey through art, music, and sexuality over a hyper house beat. It sounds like a Michael Alig anecdote if written by Bret Easton Ellis, and considering Mykki Blanco’s burgeoning position in the New York underground, it makes perfect sense. For those that have watched and listened to Mykki Blanco’s hypercharged evolution, Betty Rubble: The Initiation isn’t just a culmination of what she’s done — it’s a sign of what’s to come.