Catch Miss Blanks performing with K2K and Alexa Casino at Red Bull Music Presents: Wellington (Curated by VICE) today, November 14 at Cuba 121 and at her Auckland show with Jess B at Neck of the Woods on Friday, November 16.
Hip hop culture and specifically rap music have customarily been genres mired in male-heavy themes of misogyny and violence. Now a new generation of outspoken femmes and queers are flipping tired conventions on their heads. Among them is Brisbane-based artist Miss Blanks, a loud and proud trans woman of colour with fiery hooks and slick production whose rhymes range from Lil-Kim-esque sex-pot to good old don't-fuck-with-my-posse agro and beyond.
Ahead of her shows in Wellington and Auckland with VICE NZ and Red Bull, Sam Te Kani—host of our Sex With Sam series—got hold of Miss Blanks to discuss what's been a year of rapid change and growth including some serious musical development, hosting some of Charli XCX's now infamous 1999 parties, and the joys of reaching a wider than anticipated audience.
VICE: Hey Sam here, I think you were expecting my call.
Oh yeah, how are you?
I’m pretty good, how are you going?
I’m good, I’m good, I’m just—what am I doing? I’m just prepping for going to the studio. Oh lovely. So describe the Miss Blanks project and persona, what is she all about?
Miss Blanks and I, we’re the same. For me Miss Blanks is my artist name, and like I know I’m a Leo so I'm fiery, I’m militant and angry but also soft and gentle, I’m unapologetic, I make really great music. You hosted the Charli XCX 1999 party in Brisbane a couple of weeks back, how was that, how did that even come about?
Basically me and Banoffee have watched each other’s work from afar and we have a lot of mutual friends in Melbourne and they were on the Taylor Swift tour with Charli XCX supporting Taylor. So they came out to Australia, and they’d been hosting these 1999 parties all over the world and they were just doing Sydney and Melbourne and I was like that’s so odd, you were coming to Brisbane for the tour but why aren’t you doing a party here? So I slid in Banoffee’s DMs like ‘hey sis, I dunno what’s going on but y’all should….in Brisbane’ and she was like ‘yeah but do you think Brisbane will go off for it?’ and I was like, ‘Look I know it’s a Tuesday night, but like I’m confident I can pull numbers’. And, Sydney, for like context, Sydney and Melbourne were 200, Brisbane was 700. So this is your second trip to New Zealand this year. What’s changed for you since March?
Oh my God, what has changed for me? I gained a little weight, I’ve been more protective of my heart, I invested in a really good skin care regime, and I don’t add pineapple on a pizza. That’s prejudiced.
Call me out! What else? I only started music roughly 18 months ago, it’s been a weirdly quick journey but a great one. I wouldn’t change anything, but I think over the last six months I’m much more aware of my presence and visibility. And I guess there’s a kind of privilege that comes with getting to carve out new space within the landscape of pop, being able to create viable pathways for access and inclusion. I’m more aware now of how specific sounds and certain lyrical themes can touch on sometimes taboo topics, and while that’s refreshing and exciting it also sets new boundaries that other artists, in Australia at least, haven’t faced before. So I guess figuring out navigating those boundaries in a musical and a business space, that’s what’s changed. What was your first New Zealand visit like?
I did four cities, Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland. It was my first time playing New Zealand, let alone visiting New Zealand, and I thought it was going to be like four people in the building, but like they all sold really well. Dunedin was like 1000 people, and Christchurch was 800. It was really beautiful to see so many people come out and yeah, give so much love and energy. That’s amazing, cos like I have a little prejudice about the south of this country, but to hear that you did a gig in Christchurch and 800 people turned out, like that’s actually mind blowing for me.
Yeah, it was insane. My main demographic I guess is 18-24. Usually white gay men love my music and white cis women love my music, so it was really special coming to New Zealand and while those main two pools were present and giving their life, there were also these het men with their phones screaming for ‘Pussy on Fire’, my first song. They were going psycho! Your new track ‘This Bitch’, it’s quite a stylistic switch up for you, so was that a conscious move on your part or was it something that came about organically?
Well the crazy thing about that song is I started writing it in December. The way the song changed over the course of 11 months has been really interesting. A lot has happened over the last year in terms of musical experience and the kinds of people I’ve had to deal with. Originally when I started writing it, I wanted to write something chill. The beat really reminded me of old school Snoop Dogg and that whole LA Californian G Funk.
I feel like me as a rapper a lot of my word play and rhyme scheme is reflective of youth rappers, so it’s really cool to play with that and then have this West Coast kind of production. Writing it was like this is going to be this fun track, but fun in the sense of it’s going to be not deep, it’s not complicated, it doesn’t have to be complex, I can just like say my piece and be done. But then over the course of a year it turned into this subtle dis track which was never a conscious thing. My writing process is fluid. I’ll get a beat or I’ll have something on my mind that I want to talk about and I want to express and I’ll just start writing.
You’ve said the song is about reclaiming a phrase that’s generally used to denigrate women and femmes and in the past you’ve spoken a lot on issues like racism and transphobia and misogyny in the music industry. Do you feel like anything’s changing?
I mean the thing is it’s really not up to me to pinpoint if things are changing, like I don’t know. I’m just out here trying to make music and if there’s fuckery happening I’m going to call it out because for me it’s really self-serving to be able to call something out and see something slip and change. And if it benefits the wider community that’s two birds one stone.
I came into this writing music and having fun and just like existing. As a trans woman of colour I don’t need to do anything more than just exist because everyday stepping outside the front door is a political statement.
Check out the Facebook links for everything you need to know about Red Bull Music Presents: Wellington (November 14) and Auckland (November 16) (Curated by VICE).