Mykki Blanco can rap. Last year, I walked into a Swedish hotel ballroom during the Way Out West festival and saw him, shirtless and sweaty, barking bars while standing on the bar in the middle of the room, Scandinavian kids freaking out all around him. He tends to keep that same focused intensity on-record, too; it’s there, for instance, in “Unclassified,” the collaboration with the producer Etnik that Etnik released last month. On a track like that, he’s like the living embodiment of mixtape-era Lil Wayne’s freakiest impulses, dialed way up and rewired for a confrontational club-rap context. When he’s in attack mode, he’s something to behold. So it’s fascinating that Blanco is basically not remotely interested in rapping on Gay Dog Food, his new mixtape. Instead, Gay Dog Food is a work of fiery noise-punk catharsis, a sneer-scream pointed in every direction. It’s closer to being a Cabaret Voltaire album than it is to being a rap mixtape — which, paradoxically, makes it a really good rap mixtape.
The first track on “Gay Dog Food” is a burnt, decaying, redlined electro blare, a queasy Soundcloud remix of the keyboard score from the the-zombies-are-here scene in an ’80s horror movie. There’s no rapping on that one. There aren’t even any vocals. And the tape ends with “GDF Interlude,” a decaying eight-minute electronic sputter. No vocals on that one either. But both tracks work to create a tense, apocalyptic context for everything in between. There are rap moments on Gay Dog Food, but they’re clearly not the moments that Blanco is interested in maintaining. The best verse on the tape probably comes from the Memphis noise-rapper Cities Aviv, who talks some hard shit on “Moshin’ In The Front,” a guttural electro workout that’s somehow the most straightforward song here. Club-rap firestarter Cakes Da Killa shows up on “A Minute With Cakes,” but the mix warps his voice and buries it under a hammering lo-fi industrial keyboard riff. Chicago drill queen Katie Got Bandz was originally supposed to appear on the tape, and it’s a shame that she’s not here; I would’ve loved to hear her rip into some of these assaultive scorched-earth tracks. But then, the rapping isn’t really the point here. The tape instead works for a scuzzed-up kick-you-in-the-face intensity, and it absolutely gets there.
Blanco does a lot of things instead of rapping. “Baby’s Got Big Plans” is a corroded, low-budget take on the clattering postpunk war-march of “Black Skinhead,” and Blanco uses it to snarl in a sarcastic snaggletooth approximation of a blues refrain: “My baby plans to marry rich / Yeah, she’s got her eye on a guy.” On “For The Homey’s,” he starts out chanting solidarity stuff before abandoning the song to yell at friends for constantly asking to get on the guest list at his shows rather than paying for a ticket. “A Moment With Kathleen” features Blanco’s punk rock hero Kathleen Hanna growling tough-to-make-out exhortations while Blanco enthuses about meeting Hanna in the same ironic valley-girl voice that Hanna used so often in the Bikini Kill days. (Thanks to her appearance on this tape, Hanna might be more relevant to rap right now than her husband Ad-Rock is, which is weird to think about.) And even when Blanco does rap, as on “Moshin’ In The Front,” he’s as unstable and uncomfortable and confrontational as, say, Jello Biafra was on “Too Drunk To Fuck”: “I’m at the edge of the world, who the fuck can touch me? / I fear no man, nigga, fuck your judgement / Hatin’-ass bitch, yeah, I fucked your husband / Hatin’-ass nigga, yeah, I fucked your cousin.” And more than his words, there’s nuclear-grade disdain just in the way he says, “Prosecution, I just passed the barrr barrr barrr.”
I don’t know what any of this means, but it all resonates. Gay Dog Food is a dissonant and difficult piece of work, a conscious effort to keep Blanco’s audience from getting too attached to any one version of him. He’s a mercurial beast of an artist, and Gay Dog Food shows just how much space there is to explore on the furthest-out reaches of his persona. Compared to Gay Dog Food, even something as heady and strange as Blanco’s 2012 mixtape Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/Ss feels almost conventional. But for all its intentional weirdness, Gay Dog Food has a primal force to it. Its tracks are dense and physical; you feel their bass in your gut. Even at its most disruptive, Gay Dog Food has the ability to make your neck move. So maybe it really is a rap mixtape after all.
Download Gay Dog Food for free at Blanco’s website.