Green Door Store, Brighton, January 28
Mykki Blanco doesn’t know who she is. This isn’t speculation: she yells it out tonight, at her first ever UK headline show, and the facts would seem to bear the observation out. It’s been quite a journey, from New York poet and performance artist Michael Quattlebaum Jr to “international cross-dressing It Girl” Mykki Blanco – one that’s taken in alter-egos like Betty Rubble and the Black Jew Prince along the way. If this is an artist in the throes of a postmodern identity crisis, though, it certainly hasn’t put Mykki off her stride.
She arrives onstage tonight wearing nothing but a pair of boots, bright pink leggings, and her warpaint – thick black lines streaked across her face that make her look like a shadowy Spider-Man – and launches into ‘Haze.Boogie.Life’. Tracks from her ‘Cosmic Angel’ mixtape come thick and fast as Mykki stalks the stage, filling every inch of the Green Door Store with sheer force of personality. As her DJ puffs on the e-cigarette he’s brought with him, Blanco drops the mic and starts acting out imaginary theatre, using the mic stand as an illusory machine-gun. Seconds later she’s atop the speaker stacks, hanging onto the lighting rig and dancing like a stripper. Then the intro to ‘Squanto’ kicks in. By now, Blanco’s make-up is running down her face. She looms out over the crowd, a terrifying vision illuminated by flashing strobes.
A sense of personality crisis is shot through tonight’s set, but Mykki’s message is: embrace it. On new song ‘Feeling Special’, which tonight is performed a cappella, she beckons the audience to “follow me down that rabbit hole” (because Mykki, like Alice on her journey through Wonderland, has no idea who she is).
Midway through ‘Wavvy’ she channels Basement Jaxx circa 2001, screaming “where’s your head at?” – although it’s a sentiment directed at herself, not the crowd. Last week, Mykki tweeted that she’s “a rapper made for the 21st century”. And on tonight’s evidence she’s right; the character of Mykki Blanco is a radical reappraisal of modern assumptions about identity and culture, a postmodern artist for a postmodern world.