Young Fina: slanty-eyed dreama
This is the summer of Awkwafina. The New York rapper’s new movie Ocean’s 8 is a hit, and her next film Crazy Rich Asians is expected to blow up in August. With all the “Who’s Awkwafina?” buzz I’ve been hearing in film reviews, I didn’t notice until the other day that she released a new EP right when Ocean’s 8 hit the screen. This is what she says on her website.
To whom it may conce:
So that’s why I cherish the small group that “gets it.” My first album, Yellow Ranger, was recorded/produced/mixed&mastered on my bed. It encapsulated a raw-ness and a memory of myself as an unsure musician, trying to find her place. With your help, I finally found it.
I.F.W.T. is for my fans, my city, my hometown, and for all the young girls who it might inspire to follow their dreams in a world that often tells them they can’t.
I owe my career to you guys.
I will be eternally grateful for you, and will never stop making music for you.
With love and gratitude,
I’ve been an admirer since someone sent me links to her “My Vag” and “NYC Bitche$” videos about four years ago, and while I’m not much of a Snapchatter, for a while I couldn’t get enough of Awkwafina’s snaps, which featured a lot of hanging out, riding in Ubers, and harassing her beloved grandmother. If she’s still actively snapping and you’re into it, check her out there.
I been writin’ these rhymes on the 7 train
Let me testify this
Awkwafina’s right: her music is not for everyone, but if you’re at least casually into hip-hop, you’ll probably find something here to enjoy. On this five-song EP, I have to say I don’t care much for “Cakewalk” and “Inner Voices,” but things really warm up with “Pockiez.” “I got good genes and I’m aging well / Is the bitch 13? They can never tell!” she boasts in typical hip-hop fashion, but if you know Awkwafina, you know self-deprecation is always right around the corner from any boast. In fact, her intro and outro tracks are a dramatized encounter on a train where someone mistakes her first for Bingbing Fan, then Kimiko Glenn, Constance Wu, George Takei, and Randall Park. When she IDs herself, the response is “Who the **** is Awkwafina?”
The highlight is easily “Ghost,” in which she talks about ghosting a couple of guys. The track has a stuttering high-hat sounding rhythm with twangy, bouncy instrumentation and a catchy chorus. The next track, “Testify” sounds like Awkwafina’s getting sincere about struggling to create her art and get people to connect with it. Even here, when she says “I’mma make the city so proud,” and “ain’t gotta justify ****,” she adds, “not a happy camper when I’m stepping off the weight scale.” There’s a sense of longing here that feels disarming.
They don’t need to know the details
Best track: “Ghost”
Second-best track: “Testify”
Meh: “Inner Voices”
Song to make you rethink your personal brand: “Ghost”
Song to make you want to take off her glasses and call her Nora: “Testify”
Best lyric: “I’m yellow as a egg-yolk / So I’m gettin’ side-eye by these alt-right white folk”
Best moment: The chorus in “Ghost”
I didn’t hit the game ’til 2008
And you’ve probably already seen her video for “Green Tea” with Margaret Cho, but in case you haven’t. Don’t click play if you’ve delicate sensibilities.