WORDS BY: ANNA SANFORD ('18), STAFF WRITER
At 10:45 on Friday night, November 12, 2014, it is hard to decide if the weather or the event staff at Alpha Delt is the bigger enemy. The New York-based, up and coming feminist rapper, Awkawfina, may not take herself too seriously, but her Wesleyan fans certainly do. There is ice on the ground after Connecticut’s first snow and the door is heavily guarded, but a swarm of people still battle through to watch her perform.
Awkwafina is changing the rap scene. Her beats may be bold, but it is her lyrics that speak true. Songs such as “My Vag,” a direct play off of Mickey Avalon’s “My Dick,” are filled with comedic word plays that boast of female pride with an appropriate bluntness. “My vag like a operatic ballad, Yo vag like Grandpa's cabbage.” Unlike many other artists who use sexuality in place of wit, she approaches subjects of controversy with confidence in her message and a sense of humor. Awkwafina is defined by her assuredness in herself and her music.
Throughout the concert, which was unfortunately short ( she only performed four songs). Awkwafina’s dialogue with the audience emanated confidence and the female pride she proclaims in her songs. “I am an Asian bitch,” she yelled into the crowd, “I’m like a donation box for weed.” Halfway through the concert, she gave some advice to the single ladies of the house, saying that “this is the last time you will be in a social pool where you could meet your romantic others. No cohesion. No cohesion.” Before departing the stage, she called up audience participants to ask which historical figures they would most like to have a threesome with. While their answers were muddled, Awkwafina’s boldness was clear. She closed with the much-awaited My Vag.
Wesleyan rapper Cornelius+ (Derrick Holman’16) and producer JDV Plus (Jaime De Valencia’15) also performed at Alpha Delt on Friday. I had a chance to ask both of them some questions after the concert.
METHOD: What year are you? Where are you from? How long have you been into producing music?
Cornelius+: I was born and raised and now live in New York but I also lived in LA for a few years and consider it my second home. I might be going back there sooner than later.
JDV Plus: I am a senior and I come from Manila, the Philippines. I have been producing music since August 2012.
METHOD: What is the general aesthetic behind your music?
Cornelius+: I make music for real people that I know. I feel like a lot of music that gets made, especially rap music, gets made with this idealistic "consumer" in mind. It speaks to a demographic or to a target market, not to an individual. I write like I'm having a conversation with my friends, with my parents, with strangers that I meet, I try to write so that anyone can understand me but to still speak to them as an individual and as a person and if people like that then I've done what I set out to.
JDV Plus: This is rather difficult for me to answer, but I generally like to say that most of what's on my SoundCloud is emotional massage music. Some of my newer stuff is a little darker but still +.
METHOD: What other shows have you done at Wes?
Cornelius+: For about a year I performed with a band called the New School (shoutout Justin Friedman '16), which was my first experience as a frontman. I was pretty bad at it, haha. We made some waves I think and had mad fun with it though. Then this year I've opened for Goldlink, Rome Fortune, obviously Awkwafina, and done a few shows with JDV, who is my biggest musical inspiration as far as Wesleyan kids, and DRXNES (Keenan Burgess '16), who is one of the most under-the-radar and talented kids I know. Love him.
JDV Plus: I played and sang "Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers during my orientation week, I played a few WestCo open mics my freshman year, I played three -- maybe four, I can't remember -- shows with Los Strokes while we were still alive (s/o Zakky Mal, Spencer Burnham, and Dexter Dine '14); as jdv plus I feel like I've played about seven or eight shows by now. I've opened for Chrome Sparks, Mykki Blanco, and Nguzunguzu in the past.
METHOD: Generally, what is your plan when opening for a concert?
Cornelius+: I'm really particular about performing so I go over everything with my music partner and DJ, Indi (Abhimanyu Janamanchi '17), a hundred times until he is annoyed or we just get tired of it. I generally like to play the most turnt up music possible and I treat it like an opportunity to have fun. Its different from what I might do normally but I really hate the idea of a "show" where people just watch and listen. I like when people come on stage and dance and aren't afraid to look stupid. They make it exciting and nine times out of ten everyone has more fun (the exception being when they trip over wires and the power goes out).
JDV Plus: The day of a show, I'll usually spend a few hours making a playlist of songs I want to play (a lot of these might not necessarily get played during the show; the playlist is more just a pool of stuff I can freely work with). Then I'll import all the songs into Traktor -- the program I primarily use -- and make sure that all the BPMs are correct because they often aren't. Preparation-wise, that's about it. I may, depending on how comfortable I feel with the playlist, practice a couple of different transitions pre-show just to see what they sound like, but I generally try to 'prepare' as little as possible so that everything's organic.
METHOD: How was opening for Awkwafina last night?
Cornelius+: We lost the flashdrive with the setlist and all the songs we were supposed to do like five minutes before we were supposed to go on so Indi had to play half the songs from YouTube and Soundcloud links which was funny, but it was a good time. People love her so I felt lucky to share the stage with her at all.
JDV Plus: It was an interesting experience -- I've never played on Alpha Delt's main floor before.
METHOD: What do think of Awkwafina's music?
Cornelius+: I had never heard of her until I got asked to open but she's clever and entertaining. Definitely glad I got to.
METHOD: Anything to add?
Cornelius+: The AASC is really tight and you should definitely give them props for putting together such a dope event. Also, Megan Pelson has a welcoming smile.