Mykki Blanco Gay Dog Food

[UNO NYC; 2014]

Styles: “punk,” hip-hop
Others: Tricky, Lil Wayne, Ryan Trecartin

Emphasizing one’s perspectival experience with a body of work is often a more attractive way of navigating music criticism than reliance on comparisons and objective classifications. If there’s any unified message to Mykki Blanco’s method, codified by his four musical releases as one of throwing shit at the wall and hoping something sticks, it’s that the latter category is generally a hegemonic instance of the former. I could speak from the authority of my imaginary Ph.D in gender studies by placing Mykki Blanco in a lineage of “queer rap” and considering his significance within that “community,” or I could just as easily comment on what I perceive to be the theme of “queerness” in the music itself, as Blanco assumes a disorienting sequence of roles and styles. Either would be similarly (mis)informed by my perspective. With Gay Dog Food, Blanco is more concentrated on haphazardly confronting you with this problem than with offering a viable solution, and while you’re unlikely to find it highly listenable, your level of comfort with that fact should dictate the degree to which you find it interesting.

Writing about Gay Dog Food collaborator Gobby’s album Wakng Thrst for Seeping Banhee earlier this year, DeForrest Brown Jr. wrote that imagination “lives in a space that has yet to form.” Largely due to Gobby’s contributions, this album is occasionally cosmetically similar to that one, but Blanco is clearly more interested in testing the boundaries of pre-existent spaces than doing the work of the imagination. At times, Blanco’s lyrics are obvious meditations on exclusion (“I’m too freaky for these niggas/ I’m too freaky for these bitches”), and a great deal of his lyrical work on this release is dedicated to emulating rap tropes, like the boastful victory lap of ad libs that inevitably occurs on the first track of an anticipated follow-up. In broad strokes, Blanco is deeply invested in pastiche and satire, which is sometimes advantageous — as is the case with “Lukas,” the lyrics of which step back from Blanco’s persona and tell a more interesting story — but usually conceptually overloud.

The most deliberate development on this release is actually not Gobby’s cartoonish production, but a conscientious attempt at making “punk music.” “Baby’s Got Big Plans,” “Self Destruction,” and “Moshin in the Front” all at least allude to overdriven rock instrumentation and imprecise production methods, the assumption being that, in order to make genuinely countercultural music, Blanco has to look the part. Given that the aforementioned Gobby review alleged that there was a “decidedly political” significance to the lack of media coverage of that album, I sincerely hope that I’m making a good-faith political gesture when I say that I find all of this really pointless and corny. For the most part, Gay Dog Food is constituted of these boring attempts at extending the spunky, lyrical Mykki Blanco vibe into a space of surface-level heaviness, but it’s even more important to emphasize its inconsistency. As was the case with previous releases Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss and last year’s Betty Rubble: The Initiation, just as a sonic sensibility and a theme begin to emerge, something different happens.

At its best, Gay Dog Food is aggressive and Trecartin-esque. See “For the Homey’s,” “Lukas,” “A Minute with Cakes,” and “A Moment with Kathleen.” Still, the latter’s acknowledgement of Kathleen Hanna’s legend is more telling of an aesthetic than a politic. I’m not sure what makes this more punk than the bottled aggression of club rap banger “Haze.Boogie.Life,” or the queasy pop of Betty Rubble: The Initiation. Blanco’s aesthetic has always been one of discontent, but with Gay Dog Food, he actually begins to appropriate the last generation’s tired tropes of discontent in awkward combination with his usual twisted hip-hop. I don’t deny that Blanco is one of the most interesting (and best) artists working in the hip-hop tradition, nor do I deny that the vision of his collaborations with Gobby is futuristic and decidedly post-rap. This is just not their most interesting statement.

Links: Mykki Blanco - UNO NYC

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