Princess Nokia Delivers Raw, Unapologetic Performance at NYC's Elsewhere Hall
Princess Nokia is respected for conjuring witchy raps, but the artist recently reshaped her repertoire with an emo-mixtape, A Girl Cried Red -- and NYC’s Elsewhere Hall was packed-out on Saturday night (May 5) to witness the emcee’s lyrical wizardry.
Opening for Nokia was the electronic artists, Blood Cultures, who hit the stage in mysterious disguises. The veiled synth-pop artists’ announcer explained, “The reason they are all wearing these fantastic masks is because they are very nervous. They get scared in front of people, and they are a little bit shy.” Soon, their viral ditty, “Indian Summer” clamored about as their Astro-red stage lighting erupted overhead. The galactic tune, “Moon,” made concert-goers croon “she was a cosmonaut/and the only thing she wants/is to get back to the start” along with them, and the energy of their tambourine-assisted groove pervaded with ease.
“All These Days/Smoke Signals” peaked budding admirers’ curiosity, as they brought their footsteps closer towards the stage, relishing the experience from a better angle. While the latter was a crowd igniter, it was the sway-worthy earworm, “Phosphophile,” that fired up the room. Blood Cultures’ covers of more familiar records connected best, including Orgy’s “Blue Monday” and Eurythmics’ iconic “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)," and they wrapped their set with a soon-to-be-released celestial lullaby.
After a reggaeton-filled intermission and impatient chants of “Nokia!” rang out, vinyl scratches against Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” kicked-off her (often politically-fused) set as she soundchecked her mic. The Afro-Boricua’s spellbound audience repeatedly screamed the four elements with the bruja -- “Earth! Air! Fire! Water!” -- to prepare for spiritual anthem "Brujas.” Donning an off-the-shoulder floral crop top, black corduroys, and all-white Adidas shell toes, Nokia launched herself from backstage barking, “We is them ghetto witches, speakin' in tongue bitches/Fall on the floor, got sage on the door."
Nokia tested her microphone as Sum 41's "Fat Lip" blared in the background, but she quickly got back on track with her Mortal Kombat referenced banger, “Kitana,” and popped, locked, and dropped it under her spotlight. The engine vibrations of viral smash “Tomboy” provoked a multiculturally inclusive moshpit.
“So, this is a Princess Nokia show. And this is a safe space for everybody here,” she affirmed. “Secondly, this is a safe space for women and all femmes alike… sexual violence or any type of harassment is not tolerated here, and it does not excuse [your behavior] if you’ve been drinking.
“And, our non-POC allies, I need you to understand that this is a safe space for POC people," she continued. "So, what that means is, I need you to prioritize them -- respect their bodies, respect their hair and respect them! Thirdly, this is a queer, trans and LGBTQIA safe space, which means you are welcomed here, and you are celebrated here,” she professed. With the concert’s security staff cued, Nokia jolted through 1992 Deluxe poetics “G.O.A.T.,” “Mine," and “Excellent."
The emcee’s stage boasted gifts from fans, including a Cinco de Mayo piñata and a smiley-faced plush toy, which a loyalist hurled at her shoulder. Still, she graciously thanked everyone in attendance before comically detailing her last “beautiful” experience on acid as her audience laughed uncontrollably. The old school-invoking “Goth Kid” served as the perfect hip-hop transition into the emotional wax of A Girl Cried Red. A bass player, drummer, and guitarist accompanied her under bright strobes for as she segued into the project’s lead single, “Your Eyes Are Bleeding.”
With a melody reminiscent of her past efforts on Metallic Butterfly, “Flowers and Rope" owns some of Nokia’s darkest verses to date. “Fighting my demons, they keep tryna win/Life of a loner, I want it to end/Hurt myself, and I gave it three nights," she sang. Soon, Nokia tugged down her round-framed glasses to peer into the eyes of those screaming below her to throw to new emo tune “Look Up Kid.”
In this fashion, “For the Night” kept up that momentum, and fans took over the song the second she stretched out her mic towards them. For some, Nokia’s genre shift went unglorified, but the thunderous applause for “Morphine” and “Little Angel” drowned out any distant negativity from the trolls of cyberspace. She purred to her loyal SoundCloud listeners with the finger-snappy sounds of “Dragon,” and serenaded all with the retro-influenced “Apple Pie.”
With sisterhood in mind, the multidimensional headliner roared her thoughts on equality: "Protectors of the earth, guardians of children, worshippers of the moon, mermaids of the ocean/We are followers of the sun and women of magic," Nokia riffed in tribute. She didn't run off stage when the rhythm stopped, but instead happily signed autographs while Big Pun's classic "100%" knocked through the speakers above.