Princess Nokia on the Throne

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Summer Arts in review.
By HUNTER RICHARDS

In less than 24 hours, Princess Nokia’s newest music video for her single “G.O.A.T.” surpassed 100,000 views on the artist’s YouTube channel. Nokia proclaims her ‘G.O.A.T.’ status in the new track, and her ability to shift between musical styles effortlessly lends itself to her broad talent. The new song is amongst the new tracks the artist will be adding to ‘1992,’ the album Nokia self-released in 2016. Now, after signing with Rough Trade Records, Nokia will be re-releasing her mixtape with new additions and has a summer tour planned, including many international dates along with Fyf and Afropunk Festivals.

Self-releasing ‘1992’ allowed the artist freedom to express herself and resist any insincerity advised by label influences. Princess Nokia’s comfort in herself shines through her work. The authenticity and charisma of the artist is entrenched in her lyrics and their delivery. In “G.O.A.T.,” we hear Nokia herself proclaim “I been me, ain’t nobody else,” and can’t argue.

The New York rapper, Destiny Frasqueri, has experimented with both her sound and her style when it comes to her music and image. While her Calvin Klein staples lend themselves to the tomboyish look she’s honed and included in her music, Nokia has embraced her soft femininity in music videos and using her name rather than her moniker as well. In ‘G.O.A.T.,’ Nokia trades in her lighter sounds and higher pitch for a deeper tone over an ominous beat. The shift in vocal styles within the same few lines give ‘G.O.A.T.’ a dynamic vibe that sets Nokia apart. In the video, directed by the rapper herself and Milah Libin, Princess Nokia can be seen driving through New York in a cherry red three-wheeler that matches the New York Yankees cap she dons and the McDonald’s themed sweater she wears over a white bikini top. The vibrational vision within the music video obscures the focal point while simultaneously emphasizing Princess Nokia.

This is far from the first time Nokia gave credit to her upbringing. Each era of Nokia’s work is its own unique entity but religiously draws from her own life. We’ve seen her neighborhood in past videos, as we did in ‘Tomboy’ where we also saw Nokia with her friends and family back in her home territory. The queer artist and proud Nuyorican (portmanteau of the terms ‘New York’ and ‘Puerto Rican’) grew up in Spanish Harlem, drawing from her Afro-Latinx identity and city for her work. Back when she recorded “YAYA” under the name Wavy Spice, her deep melody serves as a trance and transitions between English and Taino language. The Taino and Yoruban influences appear throughout her work. In “Young Girls,” Nokia features women of West African, African American, South American, and Caribbean cultures, along with many others. The relationship of support amongst women is clear. This theme of powerful women is a constant throughout Nokia’s music. The artist’s appreciation of women and mothers is apparent in her work, of which she refers to it as “urban feminism.”

Nokia’s talent has a range as large as her personal style, which we’ve seen be soft in exceptionally sweet and light songs such as “Apple Pie” while also dominant like in “Tomboy.” Whether she is swaying with a tribe of mothers, sisters, and women in “Young Girls” or bobbing along while spitting her verse in the passenger side of a red convertible in “G.O.A.T.,” Nokia is entirely genuine whilst sharing parts of her own identity through her work. The spiritual nature of some of Nokia’s work does not undermine the confident, full vocals of her rapping. Rather, it lends itself to Nokia’s ability to transform herself and reflect more aspects of her own identity.

Nokia’s confidence and assertion of her identity allows her to break the mold, transitioning from softer singing to deeper rapping without any questions or opposition. Using her own life and experiences, Nokia shares part of herself and continues to reflect on her own background and upbringing with respect and care. Whether she drops lines about favorite locations and businesses from her old neighborhood or showing a softer side of herself, Nokia invites us in while reminding us that this is her home. Her love and respect for where she began and the communities she draws strength from make her the Princess Nokia we know and love.

Hunter Richards ([email protected]) can’t wait for the full plate!