PLATOON · February 26, 2020
Destiny Frasqueri, professionally known as Princess Nokia since 2014, became a darling of underground hip-hop fans following her debut album 1992 Deluxe in 2017. It was a raw, energetic project that combined old school New York boom bap style with more modern trap production. Princess Nokie left her fans little time to appreciate this unique sound — each subsequent release from the budding rap star has been an artistic left turn, from her 2018 mixtape A Girl Cried Red, which was her attempt at emo rap, to her newest projects, which include pop rap and dark, cloudy trap.
Princess Nokia’s latest, Everything Sucks, was released on the same day as its sister album, Everything is Beautiful. Both albums are rather short and are meant to portray the duality of her emotions; one of them is upbeat and buoyant while the other, the subject of this review, is grim and aggressive. Everything Sucks combines the more traditional trap elements of her first album with the edgy angst of A Girl Cried Red, yielding mostly underwhelming results.
The gritty, clever nature of Princess Nokia’s early music seems to have largely vanished on her newest project, which contains ten tracks with varying levels of stale production. She brings a much more aggressive style of rapping than her usual performances, but most of her bars are unoriginal and hamper the energy generated by the music. For instance, on “Welcome to the Circus,” when she gripes “break out of the matrix, live the moment / look up from your phone and stop the moaning.”
Nokia occasionally channels energy inspired by hardcore and punk music, but does so to varrying success. “Gross” is a fairly fun self-deprecating song with an aggressive chorus clearly meant to accompany a vicious mosh pit, but the penultimate track “Woes” fails to appeal to punk subculture as Nokia croons “I’m chilling with the skaters, I’m chilling with the punks / I’m chilling in the park with the kids having fun” in the form of a grating, auto-tuned chorus. The concluding track, “Just a Kid,” is a much more relaxed and introspective song focusing on Princess Nokia’s troubled past and formative experiences. She flows well on the song, and it encompasses the despondent mood of an album titled Everything Sucks, but the track feels a bit out of place when compared to the grimy bangers that precede it.
Few of the songs on Everything Sucks are bad, but listeners can’t help but feel disappointed in Nokia’s execution — after all, the majority of the record was recorded and produced in just one messy week in New York . It seems like the two contrasting albums released simultaneously was her entire artistic statement, and each individual song was phoned in just for the sake of completing the concept. As Princess Nokia progresses further in her career, it seems that the cunning east coast wit of her debut has been left in the past. On the bright side, she has shown no fear of constantly changing her musical direction, which will leave her fans excitedly guessing for years to come.