Gig Review – Princess Nokia at XOYO

I didn’t think I’d ever leave a club in Shoreditch feeling more wholesome than when I entered, but I guess that’s what happens when the you take all the seediness and grim perversion out of the London nightlife environment.

Don’t get me wrong, Princess Nokia’s performance was astounding, but the promise of gender equality at a gig is one that lingers and makes an even stronger impression – probably because of just how unusual it is for that idea to be made tangible. XOYO felt noticeably different: ripples of discontent spread through the crowd as a few muscular white men tried to push their way through the crowd, and they soon thought better of it. Challenging this kind of entitlement is something that’s been needed for a long time – and as is usual for Nokia’s gigs, this time women were front and centre.

Adrenaline was instantly pumping as the show kicked off with the engine sound and minimal beat of Tomboy – an empowering track that rips apart contemporary ideas about female beauty. The energy stayed flowing through out the whole set as she flipped seamlessly between the drum and bass vibe of Dragons and the lyrical genius of Brujas, cleverly tracing black ethnicities. Princess Nokia has an enticing set of producers behind her, and she fits her words round the wide variety of beats with confidence; as she should, her lyrics are engrossing, between “Hiding weed from the cops” in the deliciously slow and lazy Green Line and displaying an obsession with video games as she bounced around the stage to Kitana, Nokia paints a personal, vivid picture of New York life.

Destiny Frasqueri a.k.a. Princess Nokia grew up in The Bronx, and while she had to lead remains enamoured with the romantic idea New York. When she was young, her mother passed away of AIDS, and Nokia grew up relying on her female friends for support. The importance to her of female strength is reflected in her work and this period of her life, she states, is when the fiery feminist that is Princess Nokia was born. During her performances and throughout her songs, there is never a moment in which she lets these ideologies slip and this resoluteness is forging her reputation as one of the pioneering feminists in todays popular culture. She started her career under the moniker of Wavy Spice with the release Bitch I’m Posh in 2010, and despite an onslaught of record deal offers decided to do things her own way. She’s remained an independent artist and has since release two diverse hip-hop albums as Princess Nokia – 1992 and Metallic Butterfly.

On Tuesday, when she pulled up some stunning women in African dress onstage to dance to a preview of a new track (which has got some raw rapping force behind it), it was heartwarming and powerful enough to draw tears (even from this male fan who she probably couldn’t care less about). Princess Nokia holds real promise, both musically and socially – next time she’s in town, don’t miss out.

Words by Nick Hann

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