Mykki Blanco – ‘Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep’ review: a bold and brilliant step forward

Whether they're chastising a partner for drinking soya milk or baring their soul, the trailblazing artist never ceases to command attention

When Mykki Blanco spoke to NME in September 2019, the visionary rapper and performance artist revealed they were working on a record “dramatically different” from their past releases. Explaining that they were largely avoiding samples in favour of creating unique vocal hooks, Blanco said purposefully: “I wanted this record to be a record that gets sampled, so I really created my own samples.”

A nine songs long, this mini-album might be slimmer than the 17-track record Blanco mentioned in 2019, but they haven’t scaled back their musical ambitions. The vocal hooks delivered by singers including Jamila Woods – who shines on the yearning ‘Love Me’ – are nothing short of exquisite.

California-born Blanco has been an incredibly compelling presence ever since dropping their spiky debut EP ‘Mykki Blanco & the Mutant Angels’ in 2012, which is why Kanye West, Madonna and Charli XCX have tapped them for collaborations. Here, though, they show off a blossoming sense of musicianship as well as lashings of charisma. When they rap, “Y’all motherfuckers better bend to me” on ‘PATRIARCHY AINT THE END OF ME’, it’s difficult to imagine anyone clapping back.

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‘Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep’ boasts other moments of braggadocio, but it’s also vulnerable and reflective. The impact of the romantic relationship that ended shortly before Blanco began working on these songs looms large on stunning recent single ‘Free Ride’. Co-produced by Hudson Mohawke, it’s a Luther Vandross-inspired soulful bop with a gorgeous sigh of a chorus: “What I wouldn’t give for love.”

Later, jazzy break-up number ‘Want Me’ offers the arresting image of Blanco trying to “sweat out” their ex at a spa in the French Riviera. And on ‘Love Me’, a pitch-shifted Blanco confides: “Without you by my side, I swear, I’d probably be a gonеr.”  This strikingly direct approach is no surprise from an artist who revealed their HIV positive status in a 2015 Facebook post, then spoke candidly about their gender identity four years later. “I’m not gay, I’m trans,” Blanco wrote on Instagram. “And it took me however fucking long it took me to actually fully self realize that.”

Working with producer FaltyDL, who’s credited on every track here, Blanco creates a body of work that feels cohesive but not constricted. The Blood Orange collaboration ‘It’s Not My Choice’ offers sax-flecked nostalgia; ‘Summer Fling’ sounds as sun-kissed as its title; and ‘That’s Folks’ teams Blanco with fellow queer-rap pioneer Big Freedia for a catchy hip-hop banger.

Some of Blanco’s rhymes could be tighter but this ferocious performer commands attention whether they’re chastising a partner for drinking their soya milk on ‘Fuck Your Choices’ or baring their soul on ‘Love Me’. The result: a bold and brilliant step forward.

Details

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Release date: June 18

Release label: Transgressive

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