Mykki Blanco once read somewhere that humans experience 256 variations of emotions in one day. One day? Blanco only needs 27 minutes and 28 seconds. Their new mini-album ‘Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep’ runs the gamut from grief to catharsis, spurned lover to serious flirt, lonesome winter to the glory of a hot girl summer. Should you require a manual to remember how to navigate emotions post-lockdown, ‘Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep’ is a pretty good bet.
Over their decade as Mykki Blanco, the Californian rapper, poet, and performance artist has pushed rap to its widest reaches, pinballing between punk, underground, industrial, and r’n’b, and setting a path ablaze for other queer rappers in the process. ‘Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep’ is Blanco’s first new project in five years. After a tireless touring stint, they looked to solid studio time with producer FaltyDL to replenish their creative spirit.
That creative spirit takes multiple forms across the mini-album. Blanco delights in a charade of roles: spitfire rapper, Sondheim star, movie actor, outrageous flirt – all the while communicating with the bruised cheek of a Danez Smith poem. The nine tracks flaunt Blanco the flamboyant showperson, while simultaneously tapping into their innermost thoughts.
It takes an almighty wardrobe department to convey such duality: disco chords, pop hooks, gospel, camp turns, giggles, and conversational rap that occasionally errs towards musical theatre. Forlorn, sexy sax blows across ‘It’s Not My Choice’, a collaboration with Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes. Horns propel the record as much as the glorious backing vocals, which are in turn as percussive as the drumbeats, directing pace and mood, from the trap roll-call of closer ‘That’s Folks’ to the menacing tempo change of ‘PATRIARCHY AIN’T THE ENEMY’.
Blanco’s heart is all over this record, not least on bossa nova shuffle ‘Want From Me’. “I’ve got a longing to feel,” they admit, with Sondheim solemnity. The mini-album reflects on the end of a good relationship, and understated opener ‘Trust A Little Bit’ reminds us that humans are complicated, flawed creatures who require a little faith.
Salty wit and salty sweat drip in equal measure on ‘Summer Fling’, Kari Faux’s smooth, cool vocals a perfect counter to Blanco’s thorny verses: “Your dick smell of hamsters, go take a bath.” ‘F*ck Your Choices’ vents about an ex’s bad habits (“This some real break-up shit!”) while ‘Love Me’, featuring Jamila Woods and Blanco’s brother Jay Cue, basks in early morning sunshine with a lover.
“What I wouldn’t do for love,” Blanco sighs on ‘Free Ride’. But amid the cat-calls and hook ups, what they’re really remembering is the love cultivated on long childhood drives with their mother, and the dreams that blossomed during those journeys. ‘Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep’ realises many of those dreams, via Blanco’s musical maturity and sense of love – throwing enough shade and glitter to cover 256 emotions, at least.