Kingface Mixtape: Militant

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trust and violence are often intertwined. i learned this as early as my first life lessons, watching the wisdom and pain that accompanied my mother whose insistence on keeping her own children from violence allowed her to trust very few. where violence is expected, trust can slip into impossibility.

my distrust draws me to Noni Blanco. she’s a Sacramento rap prodigy with a flexible flow, who has a knack for penning lyrical one-two punches that feel as nostalgic as they are original. Blanco can ride a trap and hyphy beat alike (especially the forward-thinking production of June Onna Beat, an up-and-comer of the Bay Area scene).

unfortunately, there are many who wish to halt her success. to make this clearer than ever, the Sacramento PD, which has a history of harassing Noni and other local rappers, arrested Blanco at the beginning of this March. Noni puts it best: police labeled me a menace, tried to take me off the streets / had me stuck up in my city, they don’t want a bitch to eat (“Problemz”).

Blanco’s hits often advocate universal cynicism, even when she’s rapping about her crew of friends. in her hit song “Pretty Militant”, Noni insists on being ruthless to everyone: make everybody pay, even these bitches, everybody / don’t tell that bitch your secret, she gon’ tell anybody .

the way to stay safe? don’t trust anyone and carry a weapon just in case: i ain’t tryna die young, so i ride with guns

when Noni Blanco remixed Compton rapper Roddy Rich’s breakout single “Die Young”, she brought a fresh emotionality to an old tale in hip-hop. easily out-rapping and out-charming Roddy’s original, Noni paints the cultural industry as the ultimate villain while rejecting the gender binaries that characterize much of hip-hop’s violent anthems.

for Noni, violence isn’t the restoration or justification of hard masculinities. though Blanco has spoken of identifying partially with masculinity, she is not interested in simple gender narratives. her breakout “Pretty Militant” paints masculinity and femininity as movable objects that are too often essentialized and misunderstood: that bitch hard, she pretty and she militant

militant does not equal masculine. this departure from many rappers’ gender narratives allows an emotional honesty that enriches her accounts of violence. the remix of “Die Young” is as much about her life in Oak Park as it is about her career in the music industry. in both cases, being exploited turns the heart hard: but I done been thru so much pain there ain’t no love in it . as much as Noni speaks to the impossibility of trust in her own relationships ( i fell in love, real love, all i did was cheat) , she’s also pointing to larger reasons for her isolation: they don’t wanna see a young Black bitch with cake.

Noni’s energy makes her constantly believable; you can feel the painful cynicism of each bar. and what but cynicism could be expected from a Black bisexual woman who raps loops around the industry, only to be harrassed by police, fellow rappers, and industry haters?

and yet, amidst her poetics of distrust, Noni has an undying trust in herself: i swear out of all these bitches i’m the chosen one

this trust lives past the rest. keeping a militant middle-finger toward the music industry and the police, Blanco is already a star.

FREE NONI BLANCO

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Calen Firedancing