Durham, N.C. — In a small, intimate setting, Mykki Blanco, a rapper, poet and activist who grew up in Knightdale, opened up to an audience at Moogfest on Friday about the challenges of being a gay man in today's performance world.
The 31-year-old is best known for his rap and spoken word performances that often explore homophobia, gender inequality and other issues in society. Mykki performed his high-energy works of art for audiences at Moogfest on Thursday night as part of the festival's Protest Stage. On Friday, he led a small group discussion in the Carolina Theatre to discuss the ups and downs of his career and his experience being a LGBTQ artist in the music industry.
Mykki spent much time talking about his experimentation with becoming a woman, finally explaining why the change wasn't right for him.
"One day I put on some makeup and got a wig," he said. "I kind of slowly, naturally began to experiment with my gender, with my presentation, and I think it had to do with the fact that I was in a community (New York City) where, for the first time, I really felt an openness and acceptance that I had never experienced in other cities.
"Believe it or not, I had this idea that being a woman was easier than being an effeminate gay man," he said. "But the more I made myself into a Barbie, the less people were attracted to what I was doing. I needed to be more me."
Mykki said he spends a lot of time in Raleigh and highlighted both his love for the city and his disappointment in it. "Raleigh influenced my manners," he said. "When I'm in New York or certain places, I think people are just forgetful and don't always say 'thank you.' I think the warm, respectful part of me comes from the south."
Mykki went on to say that, after his time spent traveling, he began to notice that Raleigh is different. "I love Raleigh, but sometimes I come back and I notice that the area is segregated in some ways," he said. "People don't intermix here as freely as I'd wish."
Mykki is also concerned about the way members of the LGBTQ community are treated in the music industry. "I deserve the things straight rappers are getting," he said. "The music industry is still homophobic -- there's so much work to be done."
With his debut album scheduled to be released in September and a successful relationship on the rise, the performer says he is in a good place. "I'm in my first balanced, healthy relationship," he said. "I had been doing so many things to be loved authentically, but meeting [my boyfriend] taught me that you don't have to do anything to be loved."