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:
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.