Top 5 Comments I Get As An Asian Female Rapper
My name is LEX, and I’m a rapper. (I wrote this blog on the crapper.) I write lyrics, make beats, perform live, and do very similar things to most other independent hip hop artists. I’m also a Taiwanese woman who raps in a black business blazer and horn-rimmed Ray Bans. It’s great, because pretty much no one knows what to expect when I get on stage, at least if they haven’t seen me before.
I admit I capitalize on shock value. There’s an inherent advantage, sad as it might be, in outperforming extremely low expectations and making a skeptical audience member think, “Oh, you were way better than I thought you were going to be.” Like it or not, showing that you don’t suck because of your race and/or gender gets you the eyeballs. The fact that I smash deep-rooted stereotypes also helps differentiate myself and my artist brand. But as much as I admittedly benefit from being the token Asian woman in the music spaces I frequent, I’m still dryly amused and only occasionally irritated by the predictable things people say when I mention my music career.
I often get various permutations of questions and comments when I go out to open mics, music industry meetups and shows. If it’s an open mic, I’m asked if I’m a musician or if I’m playing later. I confirm, and they ask me what I play, to which I respond, “I’m a rapper.” Then when it’s my turn, I get up on stage and rap. If it’s a meetup, it’s mostly the same thing, except I’ll spend the next 10 minutes going off about the local rap scene or my approach to the genre. And if it’s a show - usually a rock show because I don’t even get asked this at hip hop shows - they ask me if I’m playing later, I shake my head, say I’m a rapper and try to get them to come to my show. (It’s a harder sell.)
In the conversations that follow, I see a pattern in what people say or ask me - maybe even more consistently than, “Wow, you’re from Taiwan? But your English is perfect!” Here are the top five comments I get when I reveal my not-so-secret rapper alter-ego:
Nah, I’m just messing with you. I’m actually a Chinese karaoke singer and I’m about to get on stage and sing an old Chinese classic from the 80’s. It’ll be great because nobody will be able to understand it. Just like how none of you understand me.
What do you rap about?
Oh, you know, the usual. Bitches and hoes and the inevitable heat death of the universe.
Honestly, I wonder if there’s ever one thing that anyone can really say they specifically rap about. Even the biggest rap artists usually span a variety of topics in their body of work. You wouldn’t ask Eminem what he raps about. The answer is everything.
So I don’t really understand this question or where it comes from, other than the fact that people usually assume I don’t rap about gats and gold chains, and are often surprised that rap can be about anything other than that. I have some consistent themes like my millennial identity, defying Asian stereotypes, and sex positivity. For the most part, though, I write about my life and my perspective - just like any other rapper does.
You don’t look like a rapper.
Of course! Totally understandable. I know exactly what a rapper is supposed to look like. I definitely don’t fit the standard rapper image, which looks kind of like this.
Or, you know, like this.
Or maybe even this.
Yeah, damn. I guess I just don’t look like a rapper!
Did you write that song you just performed?
Absolutely not. What kind of rap star would I be if I didn’t have professional ghostwriters penning all my shit? I don’t have time to be doing anything that doesn’t involve me being totally awesome and jumping off stages and shit. Writing my own rhymes? Are you kidding me?
In all seriousness, I don’t know any independent emcee worth a shit who doesn’t write their own lyrics. Anyone can rap someone else’s lyrics. I do it all the time at karaoke night. Writing your own stuff is literally the whole point of the craft. Your ability to write technically solid lyrics with interesting content is what determines whether you’re a good rapper or not. What is considered “interesting” is subjective, but it’s based on the same assumption: that you’re the one who wrote it.
I’m not sure why most people think I’m doing covers of other rappers, but I’ve never heard anyone ask this to any other musician I know. Look, if all I wanted to do was perform other people’s lyrics, I wouldn’t even bother spending hours crafting rhyme schemes. That shit takes time, man!
Your parents must be proud.
They are, actually. They’ve been nothing but supportive and even play my songs in front of their friends, who are usually shocked at how many f-bombs I drop. Thank you for your concern about my family relationships!
To be fair, I understand that questions come from a good place, usually curiosity, and that’s totally fine. I wanted to take this time to be snarky and poke a bit of fun at the silliest ones, but for the record, I usually just answer the questions in a straightforward way. Asian-American musicians in general are rare, and an Asian female rapper is hard to come by. So the next time you see one, at least you’ll know what most people will be asking her, and you’ll know that she’s probably not all that different from you. Who knows - it might just be me!
Alex Sun Liu, aka LEX, is a rapper, writer, and marketer.
You can find more of her content at www.lexliumusic.com.
g.o.a.t Hip Hop