Princess Nokia – “A Girl Cried Red”

Princess Nokia‘s new mixtape “A Girl Cried Red” is out now on Rough Trade Records.

“I want to be a multifaceted artist, not just a musician, but an intellectual woman.”; never has this saying been less true than it has been with Princess Nokia. From the title alone, “A Girl Cried Red”, one can quickly make the conclusion that Destiny Nicole Frasqueri has taken a left turn in her stylistic musical direction. Her last major commercial release in 2017, “1992 Deluxe,” was an anthemic homage to her childhood growing up in the gritty streets of New York City. This new 8-tracked album exchanges aggressive horns and chants of empowerment for mellow guitar melodies and lyrical despair.

There’s a stand out lyric that Frasqueri uses repetitively that truly encapsulates the album’s overall glum theme. A pre-recorded sample of her singing, “Smash my heart in pieces / it looks so good on the floor”. This unofficial mantra is used generously throughout the EP and it inexplicably fuses itself well into any melody. In essence, that is Frasqueri in a nutshell: constantly transcending and experimenting through her musical persona: Princess Nokia. Her debut mixtape, “Metallic Butterfly” was heavily influenced by drum’n’bass and the jungle genre while its follow-up, “Honeysuckle”, was a venture into her disco soul roots. Prior to “A Girl Cried Red’s” release, she highly publicized this upcoming album as “real alternative shit”, an outpouring of intimate emotions, fears, and insecurities of peak adolescence and it is clearly obvious over a cursory listen to the album.

What makes Princess Nokia‘s “A Girl Cried Red” worthwhile is the universality of self-centeredness.

What makes “A Girl Cried Red” worthwhile is the universality of self-centeredness. Frasqueri metaphorically bleeds over her specific anxieties from her teenage angst and extreme sadness in her raspy falsetto from the beginning to the end of the EP. The album at its core could be an extension of the once popular punk goes rap series from the early 2000s. She is able to epitomize a generation when the emo subculture was at its renaissance. “Look Up Kid”‘s aggressive electric arpeggio opening is eerily similar to a Paramore song circa “Misery Business” and “Little Angel” could moonlight as a B-side to a early “Dashboard Confessional” album. The incredibly sorrowful “Morphine” and equally despondent “Your Eyes Are Bleeding” pay reverence to the ubiquitous emotional turmoil of accepting the lonely feeling that no one can never truly understand you except yourself.

Undeniably this is a purposeful decision, as Frasqueri and long-time friend and producer, Tony Seltzer, exclusively produced nearly the entirety of the album. Seltzer, known most notably for his work with the underground NYC music scene, complements Frasqueri‘s raw and depressive pour over of emotions with his tightly wound and clean production chops. This allows her to stay within the alternative hip-hop genre while exploring diverse methodologies. Although there are some solid material like “For the Night” and “At the Top,” there aren’t any to provide great single material like “Brujas” or “Tomboy” from “1992 Deluxe.”

Despite not sticking to a signature sound or genre, through and through one of Frasqueri‘s everlasting qualities is her profound authenticity. The modern musician especially female icons are unanimously refined by agents, publicists, and teams of other people. In contrast to this, Frasqueri is a gigantic pot of piping hot soup to the over-processed sugary popstar churned out by the industry. (Coincidentally, she was also reported to have thrown hot soup at a vocal racist in the subways of NYC). At her own shows, her unapologetic magnetism and energy is full-frontal and infectious, calling out marginalized people to come to the front and take up space, stopping the music if a fight breaks out, and displaying her assets without reserve. It’s nearly impossible to name another musician or celebrity like Princess Nokia in the slightest and maybe that’s just what the music industry needs right now.

Camille Nibungco
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