Nora Lum, born June 2, 1998, and more commonly known by her stage name Awkwafina, is my favorite rapper. In my heart, she is the heir to Shakespeare and Saturday Morning cartoons. As an accomplished actress, you may know her irreverent eminence from such films as “Ocean’s Eight” (Constance) and “Crazy Rich Asians” (Peik Lin Goh). She has also hosted Saturday Night Live, but her true genius lies in her lyricism. Genius, no. Kanye West is a genius, apparently. Awkwafina is a goddess, Calliope the muse. Most of all, she is the Yellow Ranger.
“Yellow Ranger,” released Feb. 2014, is the Queens-born rapper’s debut album. This album is as much about her genitalia as our government is about bureaucratic paralysis—which is to say, all about it. In fact, her initial success is largely credited to the popularity of her song “My Vag,” a response to a similarly themed track by Mickey Avalon.
As it has been a few years, the allusions in Yellow Ranger can be dated- there is an entire song about Mayor Bloomberg and the ban of oversized sodas in New York- but Pokemon and Spongebob references are timeless. “Flu Shot,” a rap about how much she loves getting a flu shot, is an inspired and hilarious public service that should be licensed by the CDC.
Awkwafina’s references to the pop-culture of childhood are so casual that they can slide by unnoticed. The phrase, “schemin’ like plankton,” is uttered as if it were a common colloquialism. Lines like this are like a piece of candy for me, I have to pause to unwrap them and be rewarded with a sweet memory. Her frame of reference, as a female Asian American New Yorker and hip hop enthusiast is somehow joyously familiar, though I am none of those things. Listening to her is like spending time with friends and laughing at the world. Mainstream rap is not always- but often is- dehumanizing and violent, and I get enough of that in real life.
We listen to music for many reasons, and Awkwafina is not simply a comedy act with a back beat. If I did not understand a word she said, it would still have me nodding my head along with the flow. In an era when people in high places take themselves more seriously than they deserve, taking ourselves a little less seriously from time to time is the only healthy response.
Awkwafina can help with that. Give her a listen. Blue Ranger approved.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment