Q&A with: Mykki Blanco
Updated: Jun 30, 2021
Singer, poet and activist Mykki Blanco partners with Smirnoff to celebrate love in Chicago
Celebrating Pride in the heart of Boystown, Chicago is nothing short of a sensational and vibrant celebration. And when musician Mykki Blanco and LGBTQIA+ ally Smirnoff join forces, it's a night to remember. Just ahead of Pride weekend atop the Center on Halsted, Chicagoans were treated to an immersive evening of music, self-expression and community love.
Guests vibed at the Smirnoff #ColorTheFuture event while supporting the brand’s decades-long fight for equality and inclusivity. Musical guest and Smirnoff partner Mykki Blanco intimately performed hits from their new album while party-goers sipped on Smirnoff's specialty pink lemonade vodka cosmos under a full—and fittingly pink—moon on June 23rd.
Blanco's newest album, Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep, is just days old and has already hit over a million downloads on Spotify. The nine-song serenade is a collection of rhythmic anthems inspired by Blanco's journey of self-discovery and self-love as a queer artist and rising force in Hip-hop and rap. Their collaboration with Smirnoff honors an inclusive mission that hits close to home as Blanco's well-earned success can be traced back to their time in Chicago as a young artist.
I spoke with Blanco, who shared how brands and organizations can further secure the promise of equality and expression beyond the month of June.
Your creativity is not rooted in music. Can you tell me about your journey into songwriting and performing? I didn't start making music until I was 25. I came to New York City, I had gone to art school and dropped out, I went to Parsons and dropped out, I went to School of the Art Institute of Chicago and dropped out. I was at that age where I was rebelling against academicism, but I still needed a life plan and I've always been a goal oriented person. I always thought I was going to have a career in contemporary art and when I got to New York, [I had] art supplies, a studio space, brushes and all these things to start being a contemporary artist. [Instead], I ended up writing a poetry book, which got published by an art gallery. And I started writing songs as a fresh and different way to present the poems.
How did Chicago contribute to your creative growth? Chicago is where I first came out of the nest. I lived here from 2005 until 2008 and the city was wildly different. There was a really hardcore punk scene. Chicago is definitely where my creative wings first took flight before I moved to New York. [Chicago] is way more inclusive now and it lends itself to being a place where artists, musicians and performers can thrive.
How does it feel to have over a million downloads on your new album? It feels like it manifested into something I can feel proud of, because I worked my butt off. It's the fact that those are the ears that are listening; those are real people. A lot of those songs actually started as freeform jams with session players, guitar players, different vocalists, because I didn't want to make music that was sample driven anymore. If I sampled, I wanted to create the samples. This is my second album in a very organic, twisting, turning career.
What can other brands and organizations learn from Smirnoff's example in the fight for equality? You really have to do the work. Smirnoff has been an ally for years and they walk the talk. The most important thing is not so much [being] part of this zeitgeist moment, but more finding their voice within intersection[ality]. You can't really market something without [having] the core beliefs and core values behind it. If those core values aren't there, people see through it. You don't always have to be on the cutting edge. It's okay to sit back and learn. You're then able to approach the end goal with more of an authentic means.
I know you're still celebrating your recent hit album, but what's next for you? I want to start getting recognized from the establishment in a certain way. I would love a Grammy [nomination]. And I want the music to reach as many people as possible. And I think that's a beautiful thing. It's what music is all about.