The activist warrior rapper Princess Nokia has shot to international fame in the last two years due to her tenacity. She has continued to make headlines for her musical talent and her unwavering political activism; most recently for throwing hot soup on a man spewing racial slurs on the subway, and stopping her show to shout out to the intersectional feminist group The London Latinx’s who are battling against the gentrification and closure of Latin Village. Her music and politics are welded together, and it astounds me that any person would enter her gig unaware of her ideals.
Prior to her performance whilst talking to a male friend, he mentioned how he’d been warned not to go to the front by other friends who’ve attended her gigs. I began to try to explain, with my abashed English sensibilities that I reserves for those times when gender politics erased, he interrupted me with ‘you don’t need to explain to me, I understand we’ve had our time, this isn’t our space, I’ll see you at the end’.
To understand how different entering her crowd was you first need to understand what it feels like entering most busy crowds as a woman. I always find myself tensing my shoulders, anxious and jostling for the space which I am usually knocked out of within minutes by eager and oblivious men barging their way through to the front. Or someone presses into the back of me for the entirety of the event in which case I spend most of the night attempting to shuffle slightly away to give myself a small fragment of space. Or someone grabs me for ‘support’, I don’t think anyone’s hips or behind look like handlebars or railings. And these are just mentioning the moments of ‘accidental’ invasion of space, not to go in too detail about the horrifying purposeful ones. Before Princess Nokia’s event, this was my only understanding of gigs and I assumed that this is how it always must be. That to enjoy the privilege of seeing musicians live I must sacrifice some level of my comfort and personal boundaries.
“This is a Princess Nokia show… It is a safe space for women. It is a safe space for everyone from LGBT community… It is a safe space for people of colour.”
I am not suggesting that the gig was a utopia in which every person was spaced a meter apart from the next person. There were shoulder bumps as people enjoyed the music. But in general it was a much conscious crowd, aware of each other’s bodies and boundaries, cooperating to allow everyone to enjoy the space. Before she even appeared on stage I felt a level of ease I was yet to experience at concert.
The speakers blasted the opening riff to Sum 41’s Fat Lip and Princess Nokia swaggered on stage, head banging to the pop-punk noughties classic. The crowd sang furiously “I don’t wanna waste my time, become another casualty of society” and cheered her arrival.
“I’m goth as fuck, even when I’m not in black, gothic is the pain you feel and not the clothes that’s on your back.”
I was thrown back into my ‘emo’ teenage years by the choice of entrance track. Singing along to those boy bands in the mirror whilst dying my hair black and practicing my liquid eyeliner techniques for the next school day. Later during a small interval, Slipknot’s Wait & Bleed making me more nostalgic for that teenage angst that these tunes once evoked.
“I’m Wednesday Addams to you basic ass hoes, Marilyn Manson to you corny ass bros.”
Having been amazed by her progression, lyrics and social media presence, there was a slight cynical assumption on my part that she would not live up the hype, but I was ecstatically proven wrong. It’s very difficult to describe someone who’s forcibly breaks stereotypes from every angle of their being. She can’t be pigeonholed. She’s an afro Latina woman, who is in moments closer to Marilyn Manson’s goth-punk attitude than to her current female rap counter parts, who goes to Manga conventions in cosplay, then talks about her witchcraft practices and the importance of taking care of your own energy. “Don’t you fuck with my energy.” She’s a petite, strong woman, who came on stage with beautiful long feminine hair baggy trousers and boy’s boxers visible above the waistline. This shouldn’t be a rarity. People have many hobbies and attributes that appear to conflict and clash and women still aren’t allowed to be complex contradictory beings. With her eclectic character, Princess Nokia embodies what women are.
I came away from her performance feeling a complex array of emotions to be expected from such a complicated artist. I had feelings of bubbling teenage angst, mixed with the masculine aggression pumped into her rap songs, but was above all overwhelmed with warmth at the comfort I felt in the space. Safe in the knowledge that Princess Nokia was watching over all of us, insuring our safety, like the omnipresent Patron Saint of Gothic Rap.
DISCLAIMER: For those who know and those who don’t, problematic incidents occurred at the event Princess Nokia performed at. This piece is not an avoidance of this subject, I wanted to give a review detailing the performance, as I believe the artist’s performance should not be overshadowed by the actions of others. If you would like to know what took place and how Liverpool’s creative institutions are working towards creating safer spaces please check out my article on creating safer spaces.