Princess Nokia – 1992 Deluxe
On a re-release of her 2014 mixtape, Princess Nokia provides a vivid, feminist portrayal of the proverbial mean streets of New York City
The multicultural capital for the world, undeniably the locus of America's 'melting pot,' NYC wrote multiple chapters in the history of American urban culture, but its struggle to stay relevant as a hub for hip-hop trendsetters has become something of a running joke. Perhaps the future is female.
1992 Deluxe contains a few familiar singles bolstered by eight new tracks. Princess Nokia is a formidable, charismatic MC; her voice cool, her rhymes cocky. Although the album ostensibly feels like an extended diss to a fragile, flamboyant masculinity that has dominated hip-hop for decades, there are many stories that bolster Nokia's underdog appeal. She reflects on a difficult upbringing with equal doses of disdain and optimism, the way one shuns their teenage awkwardness while reveling in those rose-golden, carefree years. Moments of humor underpin topical social issues, on lines like'hit the plug up for those bundles' from Mine, and the bizarre refrain of 'McDonald's, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut' on Chinese Slippers, borrowing from a popular American schoolyard song.
In interviews, Nokia expressed being tired with New York City, which has admittedly become a playground for uber-privileged young professionals at the expense of poorer, ethnically diverse residents subject to gentrification pressures. 1992 Deluxe champions a nostalgic NYC's proud immigrant tradition, rapping that 'In New York, you can't be a xenophobe' on The ABCs of NYC. Her own background is a point of pride: she name drops communities of Asians, Puerto Ricans, Haitians, Yorubas, and a childhood reared on Sublime, Marilyn Manson, and The Simpsons, appealing to a culture that obsesses over the colorful eclecticism of the 90s.
Nokia is as comfortable channeling Missy Elliot's deep voiced, aggressive boasts over classic east coast beats as she is riding unabashedly new school hits on G.O.A.T and Tomboy, or early-noughties G-Funk on Brick City. The previously released singles on 1992 Deluxe, Brujas, Tomboy, and Kitana, are still as urgent and energetic as when they first gatecrashed YouTube. The bulk of the album, however, displays a versatility that appears directionless but is nevertheless entertaining and engaging.
Listen to: Green Line, Saggy Denim