Since avant-garde rapper and performance artist Mykki Blanco first burst onto the scene just over a decade ago, they’ve added exciting elements of artistry and anarchy to the world of hip hop. Throughout their career, Blanco been open about their sexuality, gender identity journey, and about living with HIV. And through the years, watching this uniquely brilliant artist grow and evolve has been fascinating to behold.
That evolution continues with Blanco’s latest single and video, Family Ties, which released today. The song, which also features legendary R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe, is a soft and moody departure from Blanco’s previous fun, funky, and in-your-face style of rap music. In fact, in this piece, he isn’t rapping at all.
“Family Ties is the first song where I sonically found my voice — and I mean that in a very literal way,” says Blanco. “It’s the first song in my entire career where I am singing, I don't rap. I wrote this song about the relationship between my ex-boyfriend and his father that has had bouts of mental illness. When the person you love is going through a situation that you can't alter in any way, or help or be active in trying to correct it, [it] not only hurts them but it hurts you. I think the core meaning of this song is compassion in the face of helplessness.”
Cover art for Family Ties single
Stipe has many positive things to say about working with Blanco and complimented his newly revealed singing voice. “Mykki has a gorgeous voice, resolute and strong,” says Stipe. “I'm thrilled to have worked on Family Ties — I love how the song turned out.”
On the collaboration, Mykki adds, “I have been a fan of Michael Stipe and R.E.M forever…. I sent him the song because it felt as if in some alternate universe Michael Stipe had already created it. His willingness to perform and be a part of this meant the world to me. I hope to just keep making good art and attracting meaningful circumstances and people that make this life and making music worthwhile. This, on so many levels, was one of those moments.”
The video for Family Ties, directed by Kit Monteith, was beautifully shot in black and white in northern England, and also features a rare appearance from Stipe himself. Check it out below: