1992 represents the year Destiny Frasqueri was born and New York City was a completely different time back then. Gentrification wasn’t pushing people out of their neighborhoods with skyrocketing rent. There was more violence and crime, sure, but there was also the growth of a vibrant hip-hop scene, a scene which for many no longer exists as New York becomes a harder place to live and create in.
Fashion designers, magazines and photographers have been reviving 90s culture for years now but its all watered down to aesthetics. The history of 1990s hip-hop and the stories of the POC who gave birth to this golden era of music have been lost along the way or re-appropriated to fit a straight white 90s dream. The 24-year-old Harlem native, who previously performed under the name Wavy Spice, doesn’t try to recreate our mainstream ideas of the 90s. She grew up in these times, breathed in the music that came pouring in from the New York streets. 1992 moves so naturally, half a love letter to a long-gone childhood, half a feminist rallying cry.
Photo via Destiny Frasqueri’s Instagram
The 9-song mixtape opens with “Bart Simpson” a song that bounces through Destiny’s disastrous school days with a nod to TV’s favorite cartoon rebel: “Bart Simpson on the shits / Ay caramba man you can go and suck my dick / skating down the street being mischievous as shit.” Her flow is relentless, relishing in her tomboy cool as she cuts class, lies to her teachers, and reads her favorite comic books.
Princess Nokia is never the kind of girl to fall into stereotypes. She can be glamorous as fuck one minute and dancing onstage in a sports bra and baggy jeans the next. The moment you think you’ve figured her out, she throws you into a new verse, bragging about how she was always a “nerdy girl with nymphomaniac tendencies.” She doesn’t give a fuck about what you think, finding her roots in 90s icons like R&B singer Aaliyah and rap group Wu-Tang Clan.
Princess Nokia understands that there’s no one way to be a woman, and while she may have her moments of angelic femininity, the self-declared bitch comes out swinging in “Tomboy” and “Kitana.” Nokia brags about “her little titties and her fat belly,” ready to remind everyone who’s out to criticize her that she was a Calvin Klein model and she’s hot as fuck, simultaneously unstoppable and goofy with her rhymes. This whole mixtape is loaded with such self-love and body positivity made for dancing alone in your alone room or being out with your girls.
“Kitana,” titled after the Mortal Kombat character, begins with Nokia on the verge of screaming: “I step in this bitch and I do what I want / I don’t give a damn and I don’t give a fuck!” She makes it clear to everyone who’s listening that you’ve stepped into her queendom and you better pay attention. Her words speak to girls who continuously fight to carve out spaces for themselves in various male-dominated scenes, where women of color find themselves subjected to oppressive violence and their only relief is in these tight-knit female communities. “I just wanna have fun and to live without fear,” Destiny raps.
Photo via Smart Girls Club’s Instagram
It’s in “Brujas” where Nokia explores her own heritage through Brujería and praises the brown girl sisterhood found in her Harlem/Bronx community with lyrics of empowerment: “good witches I fuck with / bad bitches we run shit.” Nokia co-founded Smart Girls Club and has led many events focused on healing through witchcraft and sharing the love of womanhood. She’s also worked closely with collectives like Brujas – a Bronx-based group of female skaters whose focus is on the safety and wellbeing of women of color, encouraging girls to come together to openly speak about their experiences and incite change through community activism. There’s a strength in this sisterhood. As Nokia puts it: “Don’t you fuck with my energy.”
1992 falls into the familiar rhythms of New York City rap. While Nokia brings a lot of personal growth to this album, she also looks back to how she started, including a feature from long-time friend and collaborator Wiki in “Saggy Denim.” It’s hard to know what Destiny will do next. Princess Nokia is the kind of artist that will always keep us on our toes as she explores her different identities of race and girlhood through her sharply poetic lyrics.
At her album release party this past Tuesday at The Knockdown Center, Destiny established that this was a girl-friendly space and encouraged female audience members to come to the front and celebrate with her. Princess Nokia’s music is for brown girls everywhere, from the skateboarding tomboys to the hoop earring-wearing brujas. When asked by fans how to get started in music, Nokia made her message clear: “Have the best intentions with what you do.”
Photos via Soundcloud and Instagram
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