On its own, the album 1992 Deluxe delivers catchy tracks and impressive lyrics. 1992 Deluxe’s full allure, however, lies in Destiny Frasqueri, the artist otherwise known as Princess Nokia. The self described “hoodrat” raps and sings about her life growing up on the streets of New York City. The album reads as an impressive autobiography of the artist’s life, as its name, Frasqueri’s birth year, suggests.
Frasqueri, who has also been known as Destiny and Wavy Spice, began her career by releasing singles on SoundCloud. After “Bitch I’m Posh” earned rave reviews, she rose to recent fame with more impressive singles, most famously “Tomboy.” Last year, she compiled nine singles to create the 1992 mixtape and the newly-released 1992 Deluxe features remastered versions of these singles, as well as eight fresh tracks. As her first complete album, 1992 Deluxe successfully exudes the magnetic energy of Princess Nokia that has made her career blow up so rapidly.
The female, Nuyorican (Puerto Rican and New Yorker) rapper is easy to root for. After her mother’s death from AIDs, Princess Nokia spent her childhood under the guardianship of an abusive foster parent. Then, as a high schooler, Princess Nokia emancipated herself and left home with “$3 and a cell phone with 75-percent battery,” she says in her documentary that came out last year, Destiny. The cell phone, a cheap phone given to low-income earners by the government, lent its name to the rapper, and Destiny Frasqueri became Princess Nokia.
Nearly every song on the album speaks of Princess Nokia’s less than ideal childhood. In “Bart Simpson,” she raps, “Trying hard to pay attention/ But I have no real direction/ So I say, ‘yo, fuck this lesson’/ Spark the leaf, my back is stressing/ Who I am and where I’m headed/ Cutting school and acting crazy/ Foster care done got me crazy/ Living with a crazy lady.” In this first verse, Princess Nokia sings of the struggles she faced and her tumultuous school career. Like most songs off the album, however, “Bart Simpson” is, overall, an optimistic track. In the second verse, she raps, “Looking to my future is like looking at the sky/ Inner city orphan with my hand in apple pie/ A liar, a schemer, a cheater, I do it all/ I used to switch schools each coming fall/ I skipped all my classes and/ Still managed to pass them all/ Reading comics in Forbidden Planet.” Scheming her way through adolescence, Princess Nokia overcame any hardships inhibiting her. Instead, she has embraced her background, creating an album that celebrates the soiled New York streets she grew up on.
In an interview with the French music media company The Drone, Princess Nokia called hip-hop “a joyful, yet also tragic form of expression.” The genre “comes from poverty, and creating cel-ebration in poverty. And that’s what I do with my music,” she said. In her remarkably reflective album, Princess Nokia is able to highlight the joyous moments of her impoverished childhood. Throughout her childhood, Princess Nokia sought refuge in comic books and video games, as “Bart Simpson” alludes to. She would skim the stacks of Forbidden Planet, a comic store in New York, and play Mortal Kombat. In the most upbeat and memorable song of the album, “Kitana,” Princess Nokia sings of the Mortal Kombat character Kitana, creating an unconventional feminist anthem. Her hook, “Kitana, Kitana, Kitana, Kitana/ Mortal Kombat, I’ll see you mañana!/ … I step in this bitch and I do what I want/ I don’t give a damn and I don’t give a fuck (yeah, hoe!),” is paired with a repetitive, bass-heavy beat, conducive to moshing. Unlike Migos or A$AP Mob shows, girls fill the pit at Princess Nokia shows.
In a male-dominated field, Princess Nokia unapologetically asserts herself. In “Tomboy,” Prin-cess Nokia spits lyrics about her unconventionally attractive female body – “my little titties and my phat belly” – over a militaristic, repetitive beat. In “Bart Simpson,” she raps, “I really like Marvel ’cause characters look just like me/ And women don’t have roles that make them look too sexually.” Shattering expectations, the rapper spits lyrics aggressively and speaks of her awkward and unpromising girlhood. Yet Princess Nokia is shameless, and has not changed her comic book-loving, nerdy ways. Unlike many other female artists, she dresses in baggy men’s clothes, as seen on the album cover of 1992 Deluxe. Through its catchy hooks and rebellious lyrics, the album exudes the personality and politics of the quirky artist.
Princess Nokia is proud of her unorthodox ways, and, at an event at Brown University this spring, laughingly quoted the Nicki Minaj lyric, ‘I’m the iPhone, you the Nokia.’ “Well, that’s me, definitely the lower grade,” she said. “But I’m alright with that – the Nokia got the Snake game on it, so come on.”
Princess Nokia debuts her album, ‘1992 Deluxe,’ which explores the role of mysticism and childhood. Photo courtesy of hercampus.com.