Laser beams, Christmas lights and screen projections illuminated Sycamore Glen on Friday night for the performance of rapper Mykki Blanco. The KOXY concert brought hundreds of people together for the unique antics of Blanco’s live show, during which she constantly engaged the audience, venturing beyond the confines of the stage.
Mykki Blanco is the female rap persona of performance artist Michael Quattlebaum Jr. Quattlebaum is known for his genderbent performances, incorporating masculine and feminine signifiers in an attempt to complicate notions of gender expression. When performing as Blanco, Quattlebaum uses female pronouns and often wears makeup and wigs, although she wore neither at Friday night’s show.
KOXY Events Director Joey Weitz (senior) decided to bring her to Occidental after witnessing one of her live performances.
“Mykki moved from New York to L.A. in January … as soon as I caught wind of the move, I reached out to her manager to open up the conversation of a KOXY show,” Weitz said via email. “This semester, [KOXY] decided to plan less events and allocate more funding toward bigger artists, which is how we got Mykki here.”
Blanco arrived for the Friday night show in a metallic raincoat and yellow basketball shorts, accompanied by her assistant, DJ Palmtrees. Once opener SFV Acid’s DJ set ended, Blanco crossed the stage to remove the metal barricades between the stage and the crowd, dragging them to the side.
“As soon as Mykki started tearing down the stage barricades before her set started, we knew something crazy was about to happen,” Weitz said via email.
Blanco proved to be one of the most active performers KOXY has brought to campus. She climbed atop speakers and swung the mic stand like a sword. She slammed folding chairs against the concrete one moment and then wrapped herself in Christmas lights the next. At one point during her performance, a student handed her a bottle of champagne, which she poured down her chest and then into a fan’s mouth.
“Mykki straight up slayed. She brought this really intimate punky riot grrrl vibe to the show,” Mischa DiBattiste (senior) said. “I don’t think the majority of Oxy kids knew what to do with [that] to be honest. Don’t get me wrong, the students were hype, but Mykki was the one who kept bringing it to a new level.”
Blanco did not limit her shenanigans to the main stage. For the performance of her single “Wavvy,” she immersed herself in the crowd, blurring the lines between stage and audience.
“Make a circle, make a circle, make a circle,” Blanco said, waving individuals away as she dragged the microphone cord into the center of the Glen. She created a moshpit midway through the song, pushing attendees around and riling up the crowd.
Blanco continued the intensity of her set with the song “Cyber Dog,” which had her down on all fours, acting like a dog while holding the microphone in her mouth. At this point, Blanco had removed all of her clothes save the yellow shorts. For the last song of her set, Blanco brought out a fluffy pink tutu and pulled it over her shorts. She twirled herself through the crowd, letting the skirt poof up beneath her.
During the concert, Blanco expressed doubts about continuing her rap career.
“I’m kind of having an existential crisis right now because I really don’t think I want to keep rapping,” Blanco said before starting her set. “I kinda think I’m too smart to be a rapper. That doesn’t mean I won’t do music, but like, I think I’d be a really good professor … I wanna be like bell hooks or something.”
Blanco later confirmed her hiatus from rapping on Monday in a post on her Facebook page.
“I have decided to focus and pursue a passion I’ve had for quite some time now which is investigative journalism, particularly focusing on documenting and writing about homosexuality and gay culture in remote corners of the world,” Blanco said in the post. “I must be honest, writing words that rhyme over beats made by other people mostly male no longer interests me and I’ve felt this way for over a year now.”
With Blanco planning to move to Nepal in May, the KOXY concert may be her last show for the foreseeable future. Blanco’s energy, stage presence and engagement with the audience made this final performance stand out from other musical events.
“It wasn’t a big production because it didn’t need to be—it was about Mykki and the audience vibing together and building off one another,” DiBattiste said. “I have so much respect for artists who are actually interested in connecting with their audience, so it was really cool when she repeatedly came out into the crowd.”