Meet Awkwafina: an Asian Female Rapper on Vaginas, Tackling Racism & More
Comedic rapper Awkwafina dishes to Jean Trinh about the female hip-hop game and va-jay-jay pride.
In a rap battle against Awkwafina about vaginas, she would be the last one standing.
Hailing from Queens, New York, the Asian female rapper—who prefers to go by just the one-word moniker—flows the lyrics “My vag a chrome Range Rover/Your vag hatchback ’81 Toyota” in her ode to her female bits, aptly titled “My Vag.” She proceeds to compare her vagina—in a style similar to female hip-hop contemporary Kreayshawn—to Harvard Law School and Beyoncé’s weave, all references held in high esteem, in her comedic rap.
“It’s a celebration of women,” Awkwafina tells The Daily Beast. “There aren’t a lot of songs out there talking about vaginas in an in-your-face kind of way.”
The song was a direct response to prurient rapper Mickey Avalon’s track “My Dick” from a few years earlier, when he rapped about his genitals in a similar fashion, boasting about his machismo and belittling other penises by calling them munchkins and saying they look like “Macaulay Culkin.” Although Awkwafina, 24, hasn’t heard what Avalon thinks of her song yet, she felt that as a woman she had to respond to it.
Even though she wrote the lyrics for “My Vag” a few years ago, she released a music video for it just late last year. Before then, she had been working a corporate job and rapped Def Jam–esque renditions of Shakespeare’s Othello to her friends for fun, until her friend and music-video director, Court Dunn, convinced her that “My Vag” was too good of a song not to share with the public. Now Awkwafina is making music full time and is working on a mixtape of her songs to be released later this month.
“I was just trying to do what all my friends were doing,” Awkwafina says. “I was working a corporate job, but I really wanted to do music.”
Prior to her office job, the bespectacled Awkwafina—who has been physically compared to MTV’s acerbic-witted animated star Daria—had roots in music early on, emerging from New York’s La Guardia High School, the premier music and performing-arts school that molded famous performers like Nicki Minaj and Azealia Banks in their formative years. There, she played trumpet and was trained in classical and jazz music. However, she found more interest in hip-hop—she cites Notorious BIG and Mos Def as major influences—and dabbled in creating her own beats for her songs using music-producing programs like Ableton (which the likes of electronic-dance-music producer Deadmau5 use).
Asked about her favorite female emcees, Awkwafina doesn’t have one performer to include in her list. “It’s not nice to say it—I know female musicians, but not so many rappers,” Awkwafina says. “I can’t think of one I idolize, which is sad, but I’m hoping that will change.”
When the “My Vag” video was picked up by feminist-leaning websites like The Frisky and The Hairpin, Awkwafina received backlash from readers who found her song offensive, and some took to the comments sections to voice their feelings about her negatively comparing vaginas to former U.S. attorney general Janet Reno.
“I didn’t write it as a feminist track because it would be depressing,” says Awkwafina.
Alongside this criticism, she also found herself receiving racist messages from people watching her video. Recently she released a music video for her latest song, “Yellow Ranger,” in which she raps, “I’m bringing yellow to that rap game,” touching upon her experiences of being Asian, and even notes that she turns red when she drinks alcohol.
“The song embraces an identity that is not about Asian culture,” she says. “It’s about me being Asian and my experience being Asian. I’m not trying to unite Asian people with my music.”
Foremost, she embraces the comedic side of her music and enjoys making people laugh.
“Other female rappers are overly sexual, have no wit, and their lyrics are so generic,” Awkwafina says. “I want to change the game to make rap that shows I’m not a normal female rapper—it’s not about how rich I am, how much sex I have, or how many boyfriends I have. That’s just not me.”