“a gay, black, half-Jewish transvestite art-school prankster who can rhyme”
Quattlebaum argues that hip-hop, with all its swag, has a rich a history of weird, a long line of artists subverting gender norms just as they have done in “whiter” genres like glam rock and pop. This is a community with room for Cam’ron and his pink furs, for Kanye West and his leather skirts and Céline women’s wear, for Tupac and his immaculately groomed eyebrows. Even the most explicitly homophobic rappers regularly accessorize with more jewelry than a Tiffany’s window. “Do you not think that with all that flamboyant imagery, gay children were not getting turned on to, like, what was going on? Or not relating to it?” asks Quattlebaum. “It’s like, who is really fooling who?”
Michael Quattlebaum Jr. putting on a push-up bra and becoming Mykki Blanco onstage is fundamentally not that different from André Benjamin putting on a polka-dotted bow tie and becoming André 3000. As for the much-debated “authenticity” issue, Quattlebaum has zero patience for such policing. “I know what ‘keeping it real’ means,” he says. “Everyone knows what ‘keeping it real’ means. But when you’re an entertainer, you’re not supposed to be keeping it real. No, I am not ‘keeping it real,’” he says emphatically. “And none of you are.”
He sounds a little sick of reading (and being interviewed for) “queer rap” trend stories such as those that have appeared in recent months in Details, The Guardian, and Pitchfork—the endless chronicles of Le1f, Zebra Katz, Ocean, and Odd Future’s DJ Syd the Kid. And he takes offense at the idea that they are all “struggling for acceptance” in their community. “Do you guys realize that if the music wasn’t good, this would be nothing? That your culture piece, that your trend piece, would be nothing?” he asks. “It’s not that I am trying to derail you from all of the glorious political implications, and the connecting of dots, and the feeling you have that this is something brand new—but it’s not.
“It’s like, no. My fans are 15-year-olds on Tumblr who get all of my references,” he continues. “If I was struggling to find acceptance, I wouldn’t have a fucking booking agent.”