Co-presented with the National Humanities Center
Raise Up (Hip-Hop Beyond Binaries)
Any discussion of contemporary vernacular music—and the music of protest and identity politics—must highlight hip-hop, the most widely influential and impactful genre of the last three decades. In terms of hip-hop credentials, North Carolina historically has not been as loudly lauded as some other Southern states, but the state’s profile in rising dramatically. In many cases, hip-hops artists are at the vanguard of advancing the legacy of the state’s world-renowned soul, jazz, and protest music traditions. With their challenging and innovative work, the two musicians represented in this program push aggressively and artfully against the hip-hop’s traditional genre expectations in terms of sonics, identity, lyrical content, and style.
American performing artist Mykki Blanco grew up bouncing between San Mateo, California, and Raleigh, North Carolina. He moved to New York City at the age of 16 and once there, he discovered and embraced the transgender lifestyle. After a stint at the Art Institute of Chicago, Blanco moved back to N.Y.C. and began to write, publishing a book of poems From the Silence of Duchamp to the Noise of Boys in 2011. Looking to bring some art to the mainstream, Blanco began to perform crushing industrial rock under the name No Fear, and glamorous, ghetto-fabulous riot grrrl rap under the name Mykki Blanco. In 2012, Mykki made a grand entrance with the Mykki Blanco & the Mutant Angels EP, featuring cuts like “Join My Militia (Nas Gave Me a Perm)” and “Gay Dog.” Dubbed “Hip-Hop’s New Queen” by Elle magazine’s blog, Blanco joined Death Grips on tour, opening for the avant hip-hop group on its late 2012 tour of America. The mixtape Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss arrived at the end of the year, while the EP Betty Rubble: The Initiation followed in 2013. In January of 2015, Blanco formed the DOGFOOD Music Group label in partnership with !K7. Their initial release was Mykki Blanco Presents C-Ore, a compilation issued in September of 2015. Blanco next issued a Woodkid-produced single, “High School Never Ends,” in May of 2016, which preceded his debut album, Mykki, which saw release in September of the same year.
“Mykki Blanco is the most compelling rapper of his generation” – i-D
Hailed by the Indy Week as an “upstart Raleigh club charmer and image guru,” ZenSoFly is a thunderous performer of playfully buoyant music. At times a soothing lead singer and at times a cold-blooded MC, Zen worked as a DJ, producer and engineer while mentoring under the popular electronic group “Watch The Duck” before starting her career as a solo artist. The last year has seen the release of her first project Little Miss Perfect as well as performances at Hopscotch and Moogfest. Combining elements of house, rap, and electronic music, ZenSoFly makes music for people to dance to and feel.