Why I am living for Princess Nokia

By Tatiana Rodriguez, Columnist

rodriguez-tatiana_cutoutNuyorican rapper Destiny Frasqueri, also known as Princess Nokia, makes music for the underrepresented and the underappreciated. While there are many artists who advocate for their people in their work, Frasqueri goes the extra mile to make sure her work is as unapologetic and multidimensional as possible. She switches it up by channeling a variety of inner selves and stresses that in her art, everyone has multiple, complex inner identities that need to be reached.

Her work is a dedication to all marginalized people, from magical women of color to the beauty queens of the dollar store to the queer kids of the urban underground and more — and I am living for it. Here’s how Princess Nokia is becoming the freshest queen of the underground music scene.

Princess Nokia explores the idea of using softness as a weapon against oppression. Black and brown women have grown up in a society that believes that European beauty is the standard. Because of this, black and brown women are often taught to have thicker skin in order to protect their own beauty. Therefore, celebrations of different types of beauty are so necessary.

Black and brown women need to be comfortable embracing their beauty as much as they are ready to combat the negativity historically associated with it. Princess Nokia’s art prioritizes the need for more positive associations with black and brown women.

In the music videos for songs like “Orange Blossom” and “Apple Pie,” she creates music and visuals that explore the idea that gentleness is a source of power, not a form of weakness. By using primarily black and brown people in these softer music videos, she shows how they can be symbols of love and positivity — a much-needed recess from having to combat the negativity associated with these identities.

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    Yet even while she explores her softer side, she maintains her power. In a popular VFILES interview, Princess Nokia reclaims the word “bitch” as a source of strength. Throughout the interview, she exudes confidence in an unapologetic, almost crude, fashion. She lets you know that she is dominant wherever she goes. This type of behavior, of outspoken confidence coming from women of color, is rare and so necessary. If Princess Nokia is asserting her dominance when black and brown women are historically and systemically at society’s lowest ranks, we are encouraged to rise.

    In her songs “Bart Simpson” and “Kitana,” Princess Nokia raps with a purpose. She is not violent, but she gives you fair warning. Her music serves as a beacon of light for the oppressed to swim toward. It is more than just to tell you that she’s strong, though, it’s to show you how if provoked, she, along with other marginalized groups, will dominate no matter the circumstance, no matter how little they have to work with.

    Princess Nokia encourages women of color to embrace their roots. In a Refinery29 interview, Princess Nokia said, “I don’t think I’ve ever been assimilated in my life … I never change my voice for nobody because I never wanted to, because I knew that my culture was special.”

    As a mixed-race Latina, it is rare to find people who share a similar background to me in positions of authority or in popular culture. Princess Nokia constantly reminds you of where she came from and who she is. She dedicates much of her success to the Bronx, to New York City, to her Puerto Rican culture, and to her racial identities.

    Finding Latinx artists who so heavily identify with their black and indigenous roots is especially difficult. It is often that Latinx people don’t give much thought to their racial makeup. But Princess Nokia does it so powerfully and so effortlessly.

    In her most recent mixtape 1992, Princess Nokia’s “Brujas” dropped as a hard-hitting anthem for Afro-Latinas. The chorus goes, “I’m that Blackorican bruja/Straight out from the Yoruba/And my people come from Africa-diaspora Cuba/And you mix that Arawak/ The original people/ I’m that black Native-American I vanquish your evil.”

    The way that Princess Nokia is able to confidently claim her ancestry defies all that colonialism attempted to stomp out of Latinx people. Her lyricism punches norms in the face and attempts to make a new sense of normal for Latinx people who struggle with identifying themselves.

    In the music video for her song “Young Girls,” Princess Nokia creates a safe and gentle space for women of indigenous ancestry to connect to their roots. Brown women and girls dance across the screen and celebrate their ancestry freely. Artists like Princess Nokia show Latinx people that it’s okay to embrace the roots that were nearly ripped from us.

    Representation in all corners of life is so necessary for people across all identities. When you see someone who looks like you, talks like you, and acts like you, you find yourself believing that you are just as capable of holding power as anybody else.
    Princess Nokia amplifies the idea of what it means to be empowered. In her music, in her interviews, in her everyday life, she showcases the voices of many who are so often unheard.

    Tatiana is a freshman in Media. 

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