Comic rapper Awkwafina brings her bright rhymes, twisted beats and snarky millennial humor to Proctors, 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7. Born in Queens to immigrant Chinese and South Korean parents, Nora Lum, whose trumpet studies at LaGaurdia High School are evinced by a tattoo inside her right arm, learned to use her otherness as fodder for her raps, which touch on being Asian, being female and being smart, all in inventive ways.
As Awkwafina, clad in trademark over-sized glasses, Lum proffers a cheery fearlessness. A string of YouTube videos drew enough of an audience for the rapper to release her debut album Yellow Ranger in early 2014. The title track is, in part, a sly nod to Mighty Morphin Power Rangers of her youth, as well as a reflection of race and ethnicity. Always a fierce individualist, Awkwafina told The Daily Beast’s Jean Trinh that, “the song embraces an identity that is not about Asian culture. It’s about me being Asian and my experience being Asian. I’m not trying to unite Asian people with my music.” Many of her biggest hits, witty but tart adult-themed material with essentially unprintable titles, have brought similar controversy.
Prior to breaking out, Awkwafina, then still Lum, attended UAlbany, pursuing journalism and women’s studies. It’s easy to see how those tracks influenced her content and compositional style; this will be her first performance in the region since her time as a student at the school.
Currently a cast member on the popular hit MTV comedy series, Girl Code, Awkwafina recently performed as part of Festival Supreme, the music and comedy festival curated by Tenacious D’s Jack Black and Kyle Gass. She is also set to appear in the upcoming documentary Bad Rap, which puts the spotlight on fellow Asian rappers Dumbfoundead, Rekstizzy and Lyricks.
Tickets for Awkwafina’s 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7 performance are $20, with VIP packages (including a meet-and-greet with photo op and signed poster) available for $30, at the Box Office at Proctors, 432 State Street, Schenectady; by phone at 518-346-6204; and online at proctors.org.