- An honest, thrilling and sometimes hilarious portrayal of a break-up—and a career high for Mykki Blanco.
- The queer, gender-fluid alter ego of Michael David Quattlebaum Jr. began as performance art depicting a femme character in a YouTube skit. Since then, Mykki Blanco has blossomed into a legitimate talent and a subversive mainstay in hip-hop, and the persona becomes more complex and enthralling with each new release. Coming off the back of a turbulent break-up, their latest album, Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep, is a departure from the mischief and carnage of the old Blanco. It's more of an internal exploration, so much so that, during some riveting displays of vulnerability, the lines between Blanco and Quattlebaum become blurred.
Quattlebaum's new partnership with producer FaltyDL is the backbone of the album. The first time they heard FaltyDL's work, there was an instant spark: "I swear to god, sonically, this file just sounded like what was in my head. It was strange and serendipitous," Quattlebaum told Mixmag. From the plaintive chord progression at the heart of "Trust A Little Bit (God Colony Version)" to the soaring soul on "Free Ride" (which was co-produced by Hudson Mohawke), this is all new terrain that Quattlebaum navigates with clever spoken word, passionate singing and gritty raps.
In the five years since their last album, Quattlebaum has changed a lot of things: record label, identity, production style. One thing that's remained consistent is how startlingly candid they are. The feeling of mischief—the shock factor—from previous releases is very much intact. There's still the odd line that warrants a rewind so that you can make sure you heard it right: "He told me J. Cole saved rap, well how 'bout that? / I said your dick smell like hams, just go take a bath."
That's one of many choice lyrics from the chaotic, early '00s-inspired anthem "Summer Fling," where Quattlebaum teams up with Kari Faux to leave a trail of destruction and effortless seduction, all while ghosting unworthy suitors. It has all the makings of a hit in our post-"Hot Girl Summer" world. Meanwhile, "Fuck Your Choices" is a frantic lovers' quarrel caught on tape. At one point Blanco shouts, "You used all my soy milk?" in a frantic tone typically reserved for finding out your partner is sleeping with someone else. High drama is an understatement, and all of these moments are as self-aware as they are thrilling. The intentional juxtaposition of having a song titled "Fuck Your Choices" appear right after one called "It's Not My Choice" succinctly captures the undirected carnage of a break-up.
The sharp wit and strong rap roots of Mykki Blanco are consistently on show here, but labelling this as a rap record feels reductive. Take for example, the hushed sensuality of "It's Not My Choice." With its jazzy licks and glitzy, late-night haze, the production is textbook Dev Hynes (AKA Blood Orange). Blanco doesn't waste a word—they command presence with passionate and reflective bars about a failing relationship. "We both grown, baby, please come home," they plead, with an energy akin to those Y2K R&B songs that would feature a short Ja Rule or LL Cool J verse. The spellbinding "Want From Me," with its orchestral swing, sounds like the big solo number in a musical, or even something out of Disney's Aladdin. "What you want from me / I can give to you," sings Blanco with a genie-like confidence.
On Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep, Quattlebaum puts all of their emotional cards on the table and says out loud all the quiet things you might feel bad for feeling during a break-up. "I didn't clock it until the very end of the process that we had made this turbulent relationship/break-up/love record," they explained.
It shows. There's no posturing here. Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep is a volatile and refreshingly honest portrait of love and loss. What's most impressive is the artistic maturity on display. "I don't feel like I could really call myself a musician until right now," they told Mixmag. That sounds harsh, but either way the evaluation is testament to the intentional shift in tone that Quattlebaum decided on here. They steer into house, funk and R&B with a grace that shows real artistic maturity. None of these ventures feel forced, instead they flourish under the weight of some heavy emotional themes. After this versatile and unexpectedly wholesome depiction of a broken heart, Mykki Blanco has earned some deserved beauty sleep.
01. Trust A Little Bit (God Colony Version)
02. Free Ride
03. Summer Fling feat. Kari Faux
04. It's Not My Choice feat. Blood Orange
05. Fuck Your Choices
06. Love Me feat. Jamila Woods & Jay Cue
07. Want From Me feat. Bruno Ribeiro
08. Patriarchy Ain't The End Of Me
09. That’s Folks feat. Big Freedia