ZT: Awkwafina is a very interesting stage name. How did you come up with it?
A: I came up with the name back in high school. It started as a kind of inside joke between a good friend of mine where we attribute hilarious, feminized product names to actual human beings. For rap game names, pretty much any bottled water/feminine hygiene product seems unusually fitting. Awkwafina felt pretty perfect at the time and it has stuck with me since.
ZT: What’s the greatest obstacle you had to overcome, and how did you overcome it?
A: I think for any musician in our particular economy, the greatest obstacle is the decision to do this as a full time job, and to endure the various degrees of successes and failures while doing it. For me, the biggest obstacle was putting Awkwafina out there in a public way. Since my debut track was titled “My Vag,” there was a point where I told myself that there’s no looking back. I remember thinking a day before the drop date that it would be hard to go on another job interview with that coming up as your Google search. You need to really believe that what you’re doing is right.
ZT: What’s the worst advice anyone has ever given you?
A: I think the worst advice that I ever got is to not care about what “haters” or critics say. Having a public persona on the Internet is miserable sometimes, as Internet trolls will attack everything from your physical appearance to your race. However, some Internet users see artists in a way that we will never see ourselves. I think it’s important to understand who’s being racist, unreasonable, or bitter, versus those who are being honest and candid.
ZT: New York Magazine labeled you, “A commentator on culture,” how does that make you feel?
A: That makes me feel great. I don’t think I would ever want Awkwafina to exist in a lane without cultural relevancy. I know the way I feel when I hear song lyrics or references that I get, and I want to always make that apparent in my music. I am a proud American millennial, and I’m seeing more and more of that same identity coming up in films, television and music. I want other people in my generation to feel solidarity (or at least of feeling of understanding) within my songs.
ZT: What is it that sets you apart from other female emcees?
A: I think what sets me apart from other female emcees is the humorous aspect of my music and the way I express my own humility in my songs. There is a very standardized narrative in a lot of hip-hop music, and I don’t think Awkwafina could ever realistically represent that.
ZT: What advice would you give to an aspiring female emcee trying to make it big in hip-hop?
A: I would tell an aspiring female emcee to be as original as possible – to rap about things that have never been rapped about before. There are so many talented but struggling rappers out there who haven’t caught a big break because they are all very similar. The key is to set yourself apart from the status quo.
ZT: Years from now, when people say Awkwafina, what will they say?
A: It will probably have something to do with a vagina.
ZT: How can people get in contact with you, and where can they purchase your music?
ZT: If you like this article, and appreciate good journalism, you can follow me on Twitter @zangbathomson, visit my website, and subscribe to receive email updates whenever I publish a new article. Always remember that (P) Positive, (E) Energy, (A) Always, (C) Creates, (E) Elevation (PEACE).