Written by Melinda
(Who deleted her Twitter account but is active in the Noob Discord)
Mykki Blanco – Stay Close to Music
> California, US
> Released October 14
> Transgressive Records
Your feminism is not my feminism unless it includes all kinds of women
Nourishing, this album is nourishing in so many ways. Mykki Blanco is a not just a project but a bare and endearing hand enveloping you with introspective sweetness. A “gotta take it easy on yourself to be yourself” kind of message. This is a strong point that Blanco has been working to for some time and managed to shed a lot of self doubt along the way; everything said on Stay Close to Music is said from the heart with a full chest and no fear, or fear freshly overcome. Despite this being a metal review website I do think a lot of queer readers will find something to cherish on here regardless of genre. Also I’m probably going to continue to write about rap on Noob Heavy going forward so get used to it – its literally my website.
This element of affection across the record in no way diminishes the social commentary, which when it comes to race and gender can only be pointed, because too many people still don’t get it, or think they do but fall disastrously short of actual allyship. Many people just cannot move beyond the conceptualization of other cultures and into an actual connection. There is also a strong presence of drug themes presented in various ways from the more severe to something approach a sarcastic party. It’s an album comprised mostly of highlights because of how well they touch on each topic while also having an organic flow between them. It’s the many aspects of an individual presented with a striking clarity. Maybe it’s the estrogen I just put in my body, or the fact I’ve had a hard week, but this album is fucking perfect and everything I want in this moment.
“The brain was never fully used / choosing habits over choices when it’s pick and choose / choosing comfort over transformation ain’t the move” – from “Steps”
Just listen and allow yourself to become a receptacle of the spirit that is Mykki Blanco. One of the biggest highlights is “Your Feminism is Not My Feminism” with Ah-Mer-Ah-Su: a trans anthem that will ring well beyond the current year. “Your feminism is not my feminism/unless it includes all kinds of women”—I think we know precisely what group of bigots this song is a rejection of—however it is all celebratory of women at the same time, as not to fall into a sense of overwhelming victimhood. This kind of empowering perspective is continued on tracks like “Lucky” which is equally sexual, playful, and aggressive. I love the line “I’m just a genius, satin panties on my penis”, it sounds like some shit Danny Brown would say as a joke but it’s always a great experience hearing trans lines in rap knowing it’s coming from a trans person and not some bad place or mockery. “Your Love Was a Gift” has lines like “I’m not a secret, don’t keep me locked away” and “Do you see you me how I see myself?” which speak so deeply to the trans experience in an in-depth and nuanced way.
It’s not all political or identity related either, like I mentioned earlier using words like “sweetness” and “affection”, there is such a sense of explosive love here. Love that reminds you of your own love, both lived and that we still aspire to. It’s vulnerable but from a point of strength and pride. “Ketamine” with Slugchrist which shows us a more sardonic side with lyrics like “Bad bitches blowing ketamine in the club / come here silly bitch / give me some love / come here silly bitch / give me some drugs” in a style I’m used to hearing in club-themed emo rap. “Family Ties”, as the title suggests, seems to be about family figures with the assumption they can so easily be tumultuous (“I hate to see you so low / I hate to see you all fucked up“) and I strongly relate to the sentiment of not wanting to see a family member so low and fucked up but also strongly resenting them at the same time due to being raised by a single alcoholic teen parent. “Carry On” discusses Blanco‘s struggle with HIV and the stigma often surrounding that diagnosis—the beauty of this track is that is not only a hyper-personal experience closed off from the rest of the world, the notion of carrying on so important to most of us and in so many aspects of Blanco‘s identity and environment.
The variety on display is truly entertaining, emotionally stirring and intellectually stimulating approaching the breadth of a person’s experience, masterfully distilled down to an audio medium. Every feature contributes something wonderful. I am not at all surprised to see yet another great feature from Saul Williams, he’s been everywhere this year, from Ho99o9 to Denzel Curry. On a beat production level there’s a lot of vibrance to the sound utilizing strings and horns and other more natural sounding aspects rather than being all 808s, canned acoustic melodies, and generic digital vocal hooks like so much emotionally charged pop infused rap tends to be at the moment. I cannot find a fault here and I’m not interested in finding one.
As soon as I heard Blanco had a new one I did not hesitate for a second, I was already a huge fan of their 2021 release Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep which was oozing with comfort and queerness. While a lot of the subject matter of Stay Close to Music leaps right out at me as a trans rap fan, there are a lot of aspects of this album that are beyond me and will slowly become illuminated under repeat listens or reading future interviews. Some of it I will never grasp and simply relate with my own differing experiences. Such is the nature of such a personal work as well as the fact that I am white and from Australia.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Mykki Blanco‘s third record is their best yet. Sound, aesthetic, lyrics, and the whole damn lot is exactly as it should be, all it needs is for way more people to hear and love it. Stay Close to Music is already out and available in full!