Not that you need to be reminded, but thanks to the Internet, music trends move faster and faster. For better and worse, the result is that artists seem to go through a career-length number of transitions in a matter of months. And they can fizzle out if they don’t keep moving forward. Consistency is no longer a virtue. Consider Le1f’s more subdued, Jodorowsky-ian Fly Zone mixtape, released less than a year after the cyberpunk fight-rap of Dark York, or even, the tangible Kendrick Lamar tics and grunts that suddenly dominated Chance the Rapper’s style on Acid Rap. Point is, when you’re really good at something and your brain isn’t interested in simple, effective termite-art execution of craft, you’ll want to branch out — and the Internet has made that much easier
Mykki Blanco’s Betty Rubble: The Initiation — the follow-up EP to last fall’s excellent, mixtape-era Weezy-like Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss, is an excellent example of testing boundaries. Here, Mykki stretches his already elastic personality even further, in just half the time. Don’t fret, Hot 97-freestyle-gone-totally-askew mania can still be found on “Angggry Byrdz” and “David Blaine Bitches.” While the darkwave-tinged hip-hop of “Crisp Clean,” “Feeling Special,” and “Bugged Out” take on a vengeful, evil tone only teased on Cosmic Angel. It’s nothing you’ve not heard before from Mykki, but they’re all fascinating additions to the discography of one of rap’s most exciting personalities.
The best tracks, though, break the hip-hop mold in bold, often ridiculous ways. On “The Initiation,” a beat that sounds like a digital alarm clock is interrupted by sound-design skronk that could’ve been sculpted by Walter Murch circa THX-1138; it all bleats along as Mykki rhymes in Latin. Yes, Latin. “Ace Bougie Chick” is a ’90s rap-and-bullshit throwback, clearly keen on the signifiers of that sound. and of a piece with Cosmic Angel‘s “Haze. Boogie. Life.” If that song was a transmission from the gender-fucked future of hip-hop, this is a retrolicious time capsule from back when brilliant, though cloying, “for tha ladiezzzz” rap songs were all the rage. Of course, we’ve got Mykki voicing it here, so the gender roles are appropriately flipped upside down and inside out. This is not adding guitars to hip-hop and calling it a day on some “next-level ish.”
Closing track “Vienna” is a spoken-word monologue, delivered in an innocent Valley Girl accent set to pulsing techno, complete with intertextual references to early-’80s German heroin movie Christiane F. I would like to build a time machine that could send this mp3 and the mp3 for “Mendocino California” off Cosmic Angel back to the early ’90s where they could be pressed to 12-inch on Kill Rock Stars. Or maybe a split EP with Julie Ruin?! Here’s Mykki, an already expressive and try-anything MC/personality, experimenting with an already experimental image, pushing the limits of rap and rapping.
If we’re going to continue this Mykki-is-the-new-Lil Wayne thing (and we are) — if Mykki weren’t bucking heteronormative trends, he’d probably be Weezy-level popular — then Betty Rubble: The Initiation is Wayne in that in-between, still-rapping, Auto-Tune overdose mode that brought out insane tracks like the Yes “Owner of a Lonely Heart”-sampling “I Like It.” The moment in a career where all bets are off and everything stops making sense for a little while.