Brooklyn’s avant-hub on Kent Avenue has been instrumental in the rise of a post-gender current in the hip hop community and beyond. So it felt only right to pay tribute at Glasslands, with a diverse bill including trailblazing rappers Mykki Blanco and Le1f, Hyperdub’s Laurel Halo, and GHE20G0TH1K queen Venus-X. Support comes courtesy of the trusted Spank crew and Academy participants from three countries. The night will be hosted by Hey Queen!.
Mykki Blanco is not here to promote a movement, nor question people’s perception of what is and isn’t suitable in rap. She just happens to do all that as the most natural cross-dressing MC spitfire to emerge from NYC in quite a while. With the same rigid attitude that has her deny instrumentalization of any sort, Mykki Blanco reigns over bass-heavy post-trap anthems by the likes of Flosstradamus, Sinden, Le1f, and Brenmar. Socialized in the alternative culture of the East Village, Mykki Blanco goes back to the performative character, citing Alice Cooper, Björk, and Missy Elliott as major influences. And despite all the voguing flashiness, there is undoubtedly an earnest core to this academically trained performance artist, Terry Richardson muse, and published poet (her book From the Silence of Duchamp to Noise of Boys was published under her birth name Michael David Quattlebaum Jr.). Some might say she’s the all-encompassing urban artiste—but one should never forget what a killer MC she is. Time to get wavvy.
In a world full of rappers claiming to be one of a kind, Le1f (born Khalif Diouf) is a real-deal original, a fascinatingly complicated personality full of contradictions. He’s a Manhattan native who studied ballet and modern dance, and eventually earned a degree in dance from Wesleyan before returning to the city to become a rapper. He’s an out and proud gay MC whose style is rooted in Tunnel bangers from a less socially enlightened era of hip hop. He’s a producer who’s responsible for the beat behind Das Racist’s “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” a fashion icon promoting a “hoodrat Tumblr aesthetic,” and Internet personality on a transcendental quest to become a living digital avatar. “The fabric of my life is a sexy fucking textile,” he brags on “Yup,” from his debut mixtape, Dark York, and obviously that’s no joke.
Taking influence from the techno of her Midwest roots, Laurel Halo has developed a unique take on electronic music, combining the machine pulse of hardware and software instruments (synthesizers, samplers, drum machines) with her own voice to address physical process, liminality, and virtual violence. Under her King Felix alias, Halo released two EPs on Hippos In Tanks between 2010 and 2011, going for a more rhythm-focused approach with clear lineage to the machine soul and dub techno sounds of the Motor City. Her debut LP, Quarantine, saw the light through Hyperdub in 2012, hitting a good portion of dance music’s elite upside the head with the fragmented and experimental nature of her deconstructivist aesthetic, while instantly rising to heroine status in the books of many others.
If Venus X is described as a DJ, then this Latina New Yorker blows the concept of the DJ wide open. Using her sets as a platform for challenging ideas about politics, religion, fashion, and identity, Venus X’s strength is not to dogmatize, but rather push the reset button. The tempo-slider is her friend; slowed-down vocals and chopped-up sounds contribute to her woozy, unbalanced atmospheres. Catching the attention of New York with her scene-blending GHE20G0TH1K parties, Venus knows her strength lies in bringing people together, experimenting in the club, and overturning existing templates with a positive DIY attitude. Venus lives to surprise, and she’s just as likely to create installations for galleries and catwalks as she is to crop up in an A$AP Rocky video. Alongside fellow avantistas like Fatima Al Qadiri and Nguzunguzu, Venus now finds herself as the go-to girl for those who want their fingers on the pulse. GHE20G0TH1K might have closed its doors, but in the end, Venus will always follow her own road.
Will Automagic and Sean B are the tag-teaming duo known as the Spank DJs. Spank began as a party, and has quickly grown into a platform for the cream of New York's queer artists and performers. Now the Spank umbrella has extended beyond club nights to include publications, such as their limited-edition zine and daily blog which curates art, photography, illustration, writing, and music for the downtown gay community. When Will and Sean get behind the decks you can expect all kinds of chunky house rhythms and hedonistic acid squelches, carrying the torch for NYC's forward-looking, open-minded art scene.
Blending the frenetic sound of digital cumbia with the repetitive hypnoticism of krautrock, Argentina’s The Peronists concocts a heady stew that leaves a catastrophic wake on the dancefloor. It’s a sound Federico dubs “German reggaeton and cumbia” or, more succinctly, “Inca house.” Whether instrumental or peppered with female papi chulo vocals, Federico’s sound is awash with berzerk congas, steady cowbells, 808 kicks, synth horn stabs, R&B snippets, and the occasional odd folk harmony. And even in his quieter, slower moments, propulsory energy flows, making Federico a very real threat to dance parties worldwide.
Bending stereotypes left and right, both in music and in gender roles, the Vienna-based singer, instrumentalist, and producer Crazy Bitch In A Cave, or “CBC” for short, admits to taking cues from everyone from Joni Mitchell to Balam Acab for his forward-thinking and glamorously mutant sound. CBC’s releases on the Viennese electronic label Comfortzone prove that his unique strain of falsetto-filled bedroom electro shakes bodies. Note the avant-garde DIY fashion and Rapunzel-like hair (it hasn’t been cut in 13 years).
Bruno Miguel writes and produces for his electronic pop group :PAPERCUTZ, a live band that grew from his collaboration with NYC singer Melissa Veras and other guest musicians. After several releases, the band are currently part of Portugal’s artist collective Enchufada, with their output appearing on various international labels. Their poltergeist pop has scored critical acclaim in magazines the world over, and they previously won the Off The Beaten Track category at the UK’s Peoples Music Awards. In 2012 :PAPERCUTZ released their sophomore album, The Blur Between Us, recorded in both Porto and New York, with Chris Coady behind the boards. Bruno has remixed artists like Nite Jewel, Sun Glitters, Abadabad, and Albert Swarm; appeared at festivals such as Exit and SXSW; and has even recorded in the same studio where the Pixies once laid down Doolittle.