Follow Princess Nokia on a wild genre spree, captive under her Boricua spell
Many of us met Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, better known as Princess Nokia, in the video for “Dragons.” She was low-key adorable, leaning against an arcade game in a midriff-baring knock-off Gucci tank before morphing into an anime fairy with generous eyelashes. The song ends with her naked in a shower, on some soft-porn while her man (rapper Wiki [link to Inteligencia article]) clutches a bottle of Old English Malt Liquor. The unexpected hybrid is like a video vision board for hood rats, letting us believe we too can have it all – fun, beauty, and 40 ounces of wet love.
The way she flows back and forth on different accents is fascinating. She welcomes all females into her fold, offering music for and about women.
Comments sections on YouTube tell the love story of Princess Nokia as written by enamored fans. She speaks distinctly to the collective, voicing the experience of brown girls everywhere, while her versatility mesmerizes. She can look, talk, and invoke a wide variety of styles and emotions, taking the listener on a ride through the diverse identity of a Latina in rapperville. On an interview with The Creator Class, one commenter rightly noted, “The way she flows back and forth on different accents is fascinating.” She welcomes all females into her fold, offering music for and about women. A constant chameleon, musical changes bring the audience close to whiplash but we stay with her out of love. Throughout the phases and faces of first Wavy Spice, sometimes Destiny, always Princess Nokia, the artist remains incredibly relevant as a valued contributor to her culture.
Destiny Nicole Frasqueri was born in Harlem. At age ten, the death of her mother led to her entry into the foster care system. One foster mother, whom she has described as a succubus, beat her periodically. At fifteen, she ran away to the Lower East Side, winding up back with her grandmother. As a teen, she started going to queer clubs, writing rhymes, and developing her alter ego: Princess Nokia, cradled by friends who became family. On ”Young Girls,” Nokia showcases the feminine; the vulnerability, beauty, innocence and power of female youth like herself. The video inspires and heals at once. It speaks to how the artist sees herself at her core.
At fifteen, she ran away to the Lower East Side, winding up back with her grandmother. As a teen, she started going to queer clubs, writing rhymes, and developing her alter ego: Princess Nokia
Princess Nokia is by design a shapeshifter. She is hardcore, she’s queer, she is Nuyorican and she flirts then pounces as a female vocalist and as a serious rapper. Switching feminine and masculine masks comes naturally. From experience, Frasqueri imparts hard-earned wisdom to her peers during live shows and interviews and on tracks like “Tomboy” and “Young Girls,” combining model-looks, a buttery voice, and sass. In “Yaya” and “Brujas,” Princess Nokia’s lyrics and posture resonate with a feminist stance, presenting her as a protector of girls and fierce Boricua warrior. She channels her ancestry, peppering her songs with lyrics in Taíno and Yoruba. Her soothing voice offers meditation over melody and beats, guiding the lady listener into self-care and peace.
A Girl Cried Red is Princess Nokia’s fourth mixtape, released Friday, April 13th, 2018 on Rough Trade Records. In 2017l she released her first studio album, 1992, an expansion of her third mixtape from 2016. “Tomboy,” from 1992, tells Frasqueri’s story of growing up an atypical Latina, identifying as a weirdo and an outcast. Her grandma has a cameo in the video, and crowds chant along to the hook on tour worldwide.
“I just make music to fight being an outcast. I always felt like an outcast, even in music now I feel like an outcast.” Her first recording had the music industry at her with invites to labels and management. She declined all offers, quickly recognizing the threat a male patron poses to her identity as an artist, and she remains disinterested in letting someone else steer her craft. As an independent, Nokia has the freedom to be avant garde and speak directly with her fans through art and press. She is also the sole benefactor of her earnings.
Look Up Kid
Her loyal fans love the lady even more than her music, falling in line with her mantras and her presence as she changes her style like a runway goddess. From lingerie in the park on “Bitch I’m Posh,” she put on oversized denim and sweats for “Tomboy,” then cornrows and prison-yard posture on “Kitana,” until she was back to dresses and lace for “Apple Pie.” She strips off the flowers and ruffles for goth gear on “Look Up Kid,” her music moving from EDM to rock. “When I look at myself, I don’t see myself as just a pretty girl, I don’t see myself as just a brown girl. I see the blood literally splitting into all these different lines of people and heritage.” Nokia at her core is flexible, undefined by boxes. In this way she defies stereotypes but exemplifies the modern, global latina. She is multiracial, multi-genre, at times, bigender. Changes that would seem inauthentic for other artists are Princess Nokia’s birthright.
When I look at myself, I don’t see myself as just a pretty girl, I don’t see myself as just a brown girl. I see the blood literally splitting into all these different lines of people and heritage.
On “Apple Pie,” Frasqueri channels the uber fem. She calls herself “mischievous,” asking the listener to “come and kiss my thigh and mount me till I’m wet again.” “Orange Blossum” is an equally slow jam, set up for flix and chill. Erotic lyrics couple with soul-gazing flirtation on video. She explains during an interview that, “Art is the playing field between angels and demons. And magic is everywhere.”
The video for G.O.A.T. is an action film with Frasqueri as hero. She’s all cars, curls and spitfire rhymes. Princess Nokia is a prolific artist, uplifting, sharing her confidence rooted in feminism. She explores her own identity publicly, switching up genres as second nature, a part of her heritage. She says, “It is okay to be unapologetic. As long as you do it with dignity.”
”Brown Girl Blues” expresses the angst felt in community, voicing an experience molded by a barrage of atrocities. Here, Nokia speaks for community in crisis. We are shot when we are defiant/ We are shot when we are compliant. “Being from New York, you’re a tough woman. You have to be. You’re forced to be.” On her track “Soul Train,” she turns to celebration in solidarity for strength. She recreates 70s NYC summer on the stoop, the video opening with a hot cameo from Michael B Jordan. I got glitter in my bangs and all my bills is paid/ You know my hair is laid, you know my soul is saved. She is a Black woman, in a troop of her peers, celebrating culture with the whole Harlem neighborhood.
For the Night
Much of 2018’s A Girl Cried Red is a swerve of a musical direction landing Destiny back in her emo-goth youth. A whiny voice on “Look Up Kid,” and “Your Eyes Are Bleeding,” leaves fans feeling like their ears are going through it. But, “For The Night” and “At The Top” deliver the Nokia mystique, giving redemption.
In discussions about her identity, Princess Nokia returns repeatedly to her roots and to her connection with women. She takes her role as mouthpiece seriously and finds joy in representing girls.
There are few music artists as important as Ms. Frasqueri is now for the light she shines by way of her craft. Here’s hoping she continues her wild ride through image and sound and that we have a seat inside.
Words By Hit Sauce
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