Music

Review: Safe Spaces and Excellent Energy with Princess Nokia

There are few artists that are as chameleon like as Princess Nokia. The current musical pseudonym of Destiny Frasqueri, Princess Nokia’s flow ranges from quick, high pitched and hyperactive chorus to deep, deliberate, and guttural bars; both of which expound on sexuality, race, pop culture, and more on her album 1992 Deluxe. Recently, she has even jumped into singing, tackling decidedly emo vocal style on her latest release A Girl Cried Red. She is as diverse (and passionate) as the audience that showed up to her incredibly sold out show at Metro, making for an entertaining show with tons of positive energy.

The night opened with a fun but far too long opening DJ set. Spanning just under an hour (like seconds), the vibey set honestly just felt like too much. Those at the front of the venue seemed very into it, but it’s hard to stay that excited for that long. Luckily the crowd was still very into openers Mother Nature’s set. The Champaign duo of KLVAH & T.R.U.T.H put everything into their performance. T.R.U.T.H darted across the stage with all the confidence in the universe and KLVAH matched it with own intensity and dance moves as their undeniably strong tracks filled the Metro. The receptive crowd jamming along as “This Yo Year” provided on of the early highlights of the night, setting the tone just right for the show.

After the long wait, Princess Nokia’s voice echoed through Metro and the crowd popped loudly. Most had been waiting for hours for her arrival and this moment felt like a breath of fresh air. Nokia burst out from the back and went straight into a ridiculously strong trio of songs. “Brujas”, celebrating strong women and her Puerto Rican/Yoruban/African ancestry, the Mortal Kombat referencing anthem/respect demanding “Kitana”, and the empowering “Tomboy”. The songs are instant bangers wearing the witch/bitch/tomboy labels with pride as Nokia pumped up the crowd with her unstoppable energy. Metro was the new madhouse on Clark and everyone was totally ok with that.

Inclusiveness and safety should be a hallmark of very show one goes to, but usually that’s not the case. Princess Nokia knows this all too well and made a point of it right after “Brujas”. She made a call to arms about making this show fun for everyone, not just looking out for one’s own selfish wants. POCs, LGBTQ+, and allies were all asked to embrace the show as a safe space for everyone, leading to a show where the moshing was fun (not just randoms getting their violent ticks out), crowd surfing was orderly yet spontaneous, and harassment of any kind would actually have consequences. Princess Nokia puts her fans first and like “Brujas” cries out: “Don’t you fuck with my energy!”

Throughout the night Princess Nokia kept that sense of realness up. Whether she was laughing about the period stains on her dress, being a little self depreciating over her singing voice, owning up to throwing soup at a racist train passenger, or showing off her dance moves (twerking, splits, and more) without a sense of hesitation: Nokia was never not herself. Towards the middle of her set, when she brought out Jamila Woods, she couldn’t help but let out all her giddy excitement. The pair were all smiles as they sang a cover of  “I Miss You”, a song that sound as natural coming from the pair as the original did from Blink 182.

It’s safe to say that Princess Nokia gave the crowd everything she could, putting in as much as possible in what the all ages time slot allotted. Tracks for A Girl Cried Red, particularly “For The Night”, were received incredibly well. But when she asked the crowd what album her final song should be from, the crowd wanted something more familiar and opted for 1992 Deluxe, getting “Receipts”.  For her encore, she brought out a nice surprise from her time releasing music under her first name Destiny, “Apple Pie”. The song’s focus was entirely on Nokia’s voice, bring the sweetness, sexiness, and tenderness that fills the song far beyond the surface and up to a marvelous height to end the fantastic night.

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