Princess Nokia Has Blessed Us With a Soundtrack to Afro-Latinx NYC Life
Princess Nokia has the ability to make anyone feel welcomed.
In fact, before she had gone on stage at the NYU show where I watched her perform this week, I felt like we were all rugrats sitting in a crib, wary of the other unknown babies around me. When she arrived we all wanted her attention. We stretched our hands up before her, the way babies do when they want to be taken out of the crib, and hoped we’d be held in her embrace.
There was nothing but love that circulated in the air, and she was the one behind the spreading of it. She continuously told the crowd that she loved the brown faces and the diversity before her. She even singled out a few of the girls from the audience, giving them the attention we all sought.
Princess Nokia’s music is very easy to relate to, especially when you grow up in an area like New York. Her lyrics range from, “Don’t you fuck with my energy,” to “It’s mine, I bought it,” to “Mi corazon en Africa,” to “I was on the 6, green line chick.”
Each one of those lines brings vivid imagery of the New York scene. An example of such lyric is, “I’ma hit the barrio and eat some Spanish food and sit in Central Park, I’m in a New York mood.” I can easily visualize myself in the neighborhood looking for food and sitting in Central Park North to enjoy it. Be it yoga escapades in the Village, the hair braiding salons in Harlem, the men that play the drums inside train stations, or the above ground train rides in the Bronx, her musical structure allows you to take in New York for all its sights and culture. Above all, her music reminded of the sense of community that exists amongst the Black and Latino population in NYC.
Her music and lyrics are an influence of the two groups and their origins, Africa. She fuses the Black and Latino community through lyrics such as “I like the Dominicans who rock they weaves innocent. Shout out the Boricua girls who rock yaki ponytails. Big up to my Africans who braid, many hours spent.” She then draws the origins of both groups to Africa through her lyric, “I’m that Black a-Rican bruja straight out from the Yoruba. And my people come from Africa diaspora, Cuba. And you mix that Arawak, that original people, I’m that Black Native American, I vanquish all evil.” This is very telling of the historical origins of the community she was raised in. It is also very nice to see the subject of hair addressed as a fun, cultural aspect, versus as something that has been addressed with much political rhetoric.
Story continues below…
Listening to her reminded me of the many Dominican and Puerto Rican block parties I grew up going to. Of the beautiful women who wore necklaces or earrings with their names, or who wore brown lipstick with a darker brown outlining their edges. It reminds me of the tattoos that adorned my neighbors arms (some of those tattoos being the Puerto Rican or Dominican flag), and the rich music that played loudly throughout the neighborhood.
An element of her music also reminds me of my middle school/ high school years in Harlem. I remember the days I ditched school just to sit in Morningside Park, Central Park, Riverside Park, or a bubble tea store. I am also reminded of the way the New York City street lamps reflect off of buildings and trees at night. Above all, her song Green Line reminds me of where my family lives in the Bronx, and the many sights you are able to see because the 6-line train goes above ground.
The sounds of her music takes me from Dyckman, to Thayer, to Harlem, to Chinatown, to Union Square, to Castle Hill Avenue in the Bronx. When I listen to her, I see myself in scenarios with my Black and Latino friend groups. Her music highlights the unity of our people which is why it is easy to attribute my memories to her words and beats.
Not only so, but elements of her music depict the present just as much as the past. I’ve been able to trace my identity from the block parties of my youth, to my current college-bond stage through one lyric, “don’t you fuck with my energy.”
Makes me wonder what worlds others see just by listening to her.