Weekly Dance Break: Noname’s Tiny Desk Concert

Hi everyone! It’s been a minute but I wanted to drop in and leave this dance break for you all. A dear friend of mine recently introduced me to Noname, a fresh and brilliant rapper from Chicago. Here, in her NPR Tiny Desk concert, she performs a medley of her songs—which feature a blend of the sweet and the achingly painful.

From the NPR description of this performance: “These intriguing juxtapositions are what propelled Telefone to our top 50 albums of 2016. She prefaced her performance of “Reality Check” by saying: “I kind of talk in like, scramble-think, so hopefully you guys follow it.” “Scramble-think” refers to the clever metaphors she weaves in detailing the many ways she’s dodged destiny.”

But mostly, Noname speaks for herself. Take a listen:

Green Tea (Awkwafina x Margaret Cho) and AsAm Bad Girls

Awkwafina encourages young Asian women to “to embrace their quirkiness, their sexuality, their inner-child and their creativity with passion,” something I had trouble with until recently.

By Belinda Cai

About a week ago, my dream girls/dream team Awkwafina and Margaret Cho released the anthem Asian women never knew they needed — a song and accompanying music video, “Green Tea.” It’s aptly timed, dropped on the last day of May, which was Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.

The song pokes fun at Asian stereotypes in a brazen, NSFW way that’s so true to the zany rapper/comedian duo, encouraging young women (and particularly Asian ones) “to embrace their quirkiness, their sexuality, their inner-child and their creativity with passion,” according to Awkwafina.

This is evidenced with lyrics that go, “Yellow bitches in the driver’s seat… We got that bomb pussy/ That Long Duk Dong pussy/ Make you call your mom pussy/ Get a pair of TOMS pussy/ Got that Soon Yi pussy/ Be all you want to be pussy.”

There’s a lot of satire throughout the video, with traditional Asian garb, mock “Asian-sales lady” accents, Japanese horror movie references and so on; all the while, Awkwafina and Margaret show off their nontraditional sides, smoking pot, flashing tattoos and being generally “unladylike,” singing about pussies.

This brought me back to Awkwafina’s song “Marijuana” from her album Yellow Ranger, with the lyrics: “I’m sorry mama, that I am not a doctor/ That I rap about the vag and I smoke marijuana juana.”

Oh, and here’s that classic song all about vags/my livelihood:

My sister Lisa asked me, a while back, why I think we turned out the way we did. While not trying to reinforce stereotypes, she explained that it seems we were always a bit different than our Asian-American peers — more “alternative,” (as reluctant as she was to use that word, she couldn’t think of another one) in our appearance and career choices. We never quite fit in.

We’re both in creative fields, her as a graphic designer and artist, and me as a journalist and writer. While our parents are mostly supportive and encouraging, there have been many times when they’ve expressed doubt. Deep down, they still wish we’d found paths with more financial security and prestige — you know, the doctors, lawyers, engineers route.

Whenever my mom knows I’ll be around other Asian families, she reminds me to remove my septum ring and hide my tattoos. And I’m not nearly as covered as Lisa, who is working on completing full sleeves and has some kind of permanent art on almost every body part. After watching “Green Tea,” Lisa exclaimed how much she loved that Margaret was “tatted up” from head to toe. That’s something that she doesn’t see often with Asian-American women in the media.

Not only are obvious stereotypes, like the China Doll and Dragon Lady, a problem, but never seeing Asian-American women like us made me feel like there was something wrong with us — that our appearances and life choices, even, were abnormalities when it came to the world of Asian-American women. That we couldn’t live up to some golden standard. This only means that we need more Asians (all kinds!!!! every kind!!!!) in the media encouraging all of us to just be us.

It’s certainly harmful to perpetuate the model minority stereotype, and we discussed how we in no way believe that it applies to most Asians. Of course there are hundreds of thousands of other Asians similar to us and far more “alternative,” but it’s just not something we saw a lot growing up, whether it came to our peers or on TV. The Asian women we saw in the media (which was rare to begin with) were generally doctors or Tiger Moms, all with clean, “presentable” images.

Every time I listen to an Awkwafina song or watch Margaret’s standup, I’m reminded that a. traditional Asian-American stereotypes suck and these ladies are working hard to debunk them and b. I shouldn’t be ashamed of the fact that my parents may perceive my sister and I to be “different” than other Asian kids and c. these are some boss ass bitches and I want to be more like them.

Project Spotlight: Pass Her the Mic

We sat down with Mackenzie Collins and Georgina Ustik, the brains behind #PassHerTheMic, a project dedicated to showcasing, amplifying, and celebrating awesome female MCs, rappers, hip-hop artists, and more. It’s good to remember that “you don’t need a P to be a G.”

 

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1) What is your project called, and what are you hoping to accomplish?

Our project is called Pass Her The Mic. Pass Her The Mic is a social media campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that seeks to raise the visibility of women in hip-hop and rap. Each week, we feature an up-and-coming rap artist, and throughout the week post their music, album reviews and interviews. We also have created a blog (https://passherthemic.squarespace.com/) that is meant to be a space for critical and intersectional feminist discourse surrounding women and hip-hop. We’re still in the beginning stages right now, but we’ll soon be posting music reviews, artist interviews, playlists and opinion pieces.

We want Pass Her The Mic to become a vehicle for female artists to gain more visibility. Media representations of women affect how we and others view our own abilities. If there are more female rap artists visible, young aspiring female artists will feel more capable in pursuing their aspirations. Through an increase in feminist discourse, we hope to change the music industry’s and public’s attitudes towards female rappers as something less objectifying and restrictive.

 

2) What was the inspiration behind Pass Her the Mic?

 

We created Pass Her the Mic because we both love to listen to hip-hop and rap, but we couldn’t help but notice the serious lack of female rappers. Actually, it’s not that they don’t exist, it’s that they are being funneled out by the music industry. In the late 80s and early 90s, there were over 40 female rappers signed to major labels. In 2010, there were only 3. So many female rappers are being ignored, because they aren’t viewed as viable business opportunities as much as their male peers.

Rap has the potential to be an extremely empowering platform to women. It began as a reaction to oppression, and remains a platform to express frustration. But, right now, rap is a one-sided conversation. There are so many men creating amazing music and getting appropriate attention for it, but we want to hear more from female rappers.

When we looked for music blogs or resources online dedicated to female rappers, we found nothing. So, we decided to create it! But, we want this to be more than just a resource for people looking for amazing female rappers. We want our site to be a space for conversation and interaction.

 

3) What is it about hip-hop as a genre / artistic field that particularly drew you in?

 

Hip-hop began as a reaction to racial oppression, and remains one of our favorite forms of expression largely because of its total dependence on the meanings of words. The voice is the most crucial and only necessary instrument. How often do we actually listen to lyrics anymore in other genres? Rap is spoken word, expression of reality. It is, in our opinion, the most socially and politically significant genre. It’s also such a creative field now, so many artists are changing the genre, and creating very self-aware music in the face of the commodification and appropriation of black culture.

 

4) Did you grow up listening to female rap and hip-hop artists? Are there any that had a particularly strong influence on you, and why/why not?

 

Georgina: For me, I didn’t get into hip-hop until pretty late in life. I adore Nicki Minaj, but the female rapper that influenced me the most would have to be Lauryn Hill. Besides for her amazing skill, husky voice and eloquence, I also just remember being really inspired by the way that she was clearly such an equal in The Fugees. She killed each song with her verses. There was something powerful in each song she was in. Also, Miseducation is an undeniably killer album, probably my most-listened to.

 

Mackenzie: She stole mine, but I think one of the first female hip-hop and rap artists I listened to was Missy Elliot. I remember watching her music videos on MTV and trying to dance along all throughout childhood! I still believe that she is one of the most well-rounded artists of all time- –singer, rapper, songwriter, performer, producer! Even though she was dismissed early on from the male-centric world of hip-hop for her appearance, she clearly did not let the patriarchy stop her and therefore was crucial in transcending hip-hop’s ideas around women. She is a hip-hop icon! ALL HAIL, QUEEN MISSY!!!

 

5) How do you discover the artists that you feature? Any tips for readers looking to get into and support female hip-hop and rap artists more?

 

We’ve discovered many through social media! Twitter, Facebook and Soundcloud especially. We’ve also found a lot through doing more research into female artists featured on some of our favorite songs by male artists. Noname Gypsy’s verse on “Lost” was one of our favorite parts of Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap. We also found that once we told people about our project, so many people reached out with suggestions. It takes us a little bit of time to research, but that’s what we’re trying to fix!

Our first and most important tip would be to follow #PassHerTheMic (; We really are trying to make finding and listening to female hip-hop and rap artists easy, and the artists we feature are pretty incredible. We’re trying to be a resource for everyone just looking for good new music!

Another tip is to reach out to up-and-coming and amateur artists, listen to their music, share it, go to their shows. BUY their music. We want to build a supportive network for young artists, but just sharing their music on our social media isn’t enough. Be active about your support, always be thinking critically, and start discussion!

 

6) Where can we find your project, and how do you envision your project’s future?

You can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: #PassHerTheMic. You can also find us on Squarespace: https://passherthemic.squarespace.com/.

We envision our blog developing into a more developed resource for artist bios and interviews, and for Pass Her The Mic to become a voice that speaks out for, and supports, talented women. We are looking to build up a network of writers who want to engage in thoughtful discussion. We hope to steadily increase our social media following, because that’s where we see the artists we’re featuring getting the most visibility. Basically, we see the future of our project as becoming a bigger version of what it is now – we really want more contributors so we aren’t the only ones talking! We really love debate and discussion, so we want lots of opinions – if you’re reading this and have an opinion, reach out to us about writing!

We also hope that in the future we have more interactions with the artists themselves. We have a few exciting things in the works for content, so stay tuned!

squarespace: http://passherthemic.squarespace.com/

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PassHerTheMic/

twitter: https://twitter.com/PassHerTheMic

instagram: https://www.instagram.com/passherthemic/

Artist Profile: Supreme of the Mighty Wu-Tang Killa Beez

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“Shadow” and “Supreme” from Wu Tang Killa Beez | Photo cred: Yahsure Wright from SkinnyHeadTv 

By B.C.

Supreme of the Mighty Wu-Tang Killa Beez grew up in the struggle. His father, known as D.C., was prominent in the Black Panthers Party, a Black Nationalist and revolutionary organization pivotal in the Civil Rights Movement. D.C. was instrumental in structuring the widely-known “Free Breakfast for Children” program. This fed thousands of poor inner city kids throughout the country and eventually got the FBI’s attention. They halted the program because they saw the Black Panthers as a threat to internal security.

 

“[My father] basically got told by our government to shut up. They did that in a way that was pretty bad,” recounts Supreme. “Some people basically entered our house and I was the one who was threatened because I was his only child. So it was like, Shut the f–k up and take this job and retire or else. That’s the other side of the government that people don’t know about.”

 

The West Coast Wu-Tang producer-turned-rapper says his dad had to make a choice and live under the radar. When Supreme was twelve, his dad told him that if he wants to speak the truth, he either has to be willing to die or go to prison. But that didn’t stop Supreme from lecturing, marching, fighting and “empowering the people.” The rapper has a business degree from UC Berkeley and is soon releasing an album that addresses serious social issues, including racism.

 

Supreme is finalizing tracks on his album and recording some music videos in Cincinnati, Ohio. Earlier this year in July, unarmed black man Sam Dubose was shot by white Officer Ray Tensing in Cincinnati. Tensing was indicted but is still waiting to go on trial, which should be happening next month. It seems almost serendipitous that as Supreme works on his music here, the trial is upcoming and expected to draw national attention as the shooting and indictment did. I spoke with Supreme about his new project and making the choice to not shut the f—k up:

 

ACRO: Tell me about your new project:

Supreme: This new project is called “Supreme Life Volume 1.” We’re gonna drop the album in the spring. It’s done but we’re just mixing down and mastering. It’s going to be a set of three albums. The first album is predominantly hip-hop and rock. The next album will transition into more rock. It’s the first album on Wu Rock, the new label that I created, which will be another branch and continue the legacy of Wu Tang. It’s pretty high energy. It’s geared for performance; it’s geared for stage. It’s geared to incite the people to learn, to seek, to open their minds and hearts, and it’s geared to ultimately unite the people through the music and to address issues and to heal. That’s what our mission is. We say Wu Tang is for the children. It’s for the people. It’s for the masses. It’s about the human family. We’re trying to get out of racism and classism and gender issues and biases and get people back down to the basics of humanity, love and peace.

 

Can you talk about one track you’re working on that highlights all of this?

I have a track called, “White Man.” It’s a song that is greater in content than “Fight the Power.” I won’t say it’s a greater song than “Fight the Power” because all respect due to Chuck D, to Flavor Flav, and to Public Enemy as a whole. That song definitely inspired this song. We came from that. So it’s no disrespect to our elders and to our mentors, our predecessors. We can say the white man this, the white man that, but we have become that which we hate. We have become our own slave masters. So this is what “White Man” is really about. We got classic Wu-Tang stuff. We got stuff that’s entertaining. But we want to address issues. Yes, we did go through slavery. Yes, we are affected by slavery. Yes, there is still slavery today. Yes, there is racism and biases and ignorance, but there still is no excuse [for our own actions]. We’re going to be responsible for self first. These are the things we need to rectify and correct first. Black Lives Matter, you f–king right they do. Why do Black Lives Matter? Because black lives are human lives.

 

So you’re here in Cincinnati where in July, unarmed black man Sam Dubose was shot by white officer, Ray Tensing. Do you have anything to say about this case?

It’s a tragedy in every sense of the word. Our love, our respect and our prayer go out to the family of not only Sam Dubose but Officer Tensing. Just because a white officer shoots a black person doesn’t mean his family or friends support him; they’re affected by that too. They’ve had a lot of white people fight and die for black people. [However], the fact that [police brutality] is tolerated, the fact that [Tensing] even had it in his mind that it was okay to take another person’s life, regardless of race [is the problem]. Was race a factor? You’re f–king right it was. And you can’t deny that, because he’s had issues and encounters with Caucasian people and he didn’t shoot them. He knows and everybody in the United States and world knows right now what’s happening — how many thousands of black men are getting killed. They know what they’re doing. Why are they putting black men and men of color in jail? But the root of it all is the fact that it is condoned. It’s tolerated. It’s accepted. It’s overlooked. We need to go to the root of the issue and until 350 million correct 8,000 people in power, nothing is going to change. Until people fix this and rectify this in themselves, [nothing will change]. Marching. We’ve been marching. What does that do? These people been killing us and they’ve been getting away with it. The reality of justice in this country is the reality of what has transpired in each individual case. We’re already geared and programmed to expect this guy to get off.

 

How do you want to address this kind of police brutality through your music?

I was in an organization called Copwatch. I went to UC Berkeley. I had a group back in the nineties called Black Underground Movement — the BUMS. That was before we did the Wu-Tang jump-off. [Cops] shot their 15-year-old kid at the BART Station in 1991 or 1992 for a [having a] Walkman. [The cop] said he had a gun and saw a flash and shot him. He was 15 and had a Walkman. Jesse Jackson came out. We performed. [Jackson] spoke. Nothing happened. What can we do with our music to curb this? We can correct it, speak out against it, educate people against it, confront people with it and convict people. The same issues that we’re facing are the same issues that have been transpiring not only now but a million years ago. We’re occupied! We’re occupied by Europeans. This land belongs to the Native Americans and the Mexicans. We’re in an occupied country but people can’t see. Why is it taking us dying to wake up? We just came out of slavery. Women just got voting rights. People are still getting hung. This sh-t is still here. Music is the universal language so we’re going to utilize music to lead a vehicle and be a medium for us to get to the people, man. Because everybody responds to love, everybody gets hungry, everybody hurts, everybody cries — we’re all one and the same.