Princess NokiaLiverpool Music Week @ Invisible Wind Factory 3/11/17
In my final year at University, I found myself in a small, intimate Bristol bar watching PRINCESS NOKIA perform on what could hardly be called a stage. Barely a year later, and she’s headlining the penultimate show of Liverpool Music Week in front of a crowd of people who all know her name. Her set is captivating, her music varied and her energy wildly infectious.
Princess Nokia runs onto the stage, launching straight into her most famous track, Tomboy. The crowd are in love, and everyone sings back: “That girl is a tomboy!” Her hooks, like this one, are simple and catchy; her verses are jam-packed with colourful details, fast-paced and exciting.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about Princess Nokia is that she thrives on the unexpected. Be that playing Slipknot in between songs or telling a story about taking her cousin to get a piercing, she keeps the audience on their toes, laughing and always engaged. She is unapologetic when she has to pause to alter her top and it’s refreshing to see a woman of colour artist so at home on the stage.
Towards the end of her set, she offers another surprise: an a cappella rendition of Apple Pie, which she released under her previous stage name Destiny. Her voice is soulful, beautiful and mellow, and the audience pauses to reflect on the excitement of the last hour. This is one of Princess Nokia’s strengths: while the majority of her songs incorporate old-school hip hop beats, she is unafraid to move across genres.
It is sadly necessary to acknowledge some of the failings of the night, though Princess Nokia’s set was in no way overshadowed. Coverage of the event has focused on her decision to kick a white woman out, and not on that white woman’s abusive behaviour in the crowd. Using a person’s lived experience of racism to inspire ‘controversial’ click-bait articles is symptomatic of a much wider problem. Ultimately, Princess Nokia’s wish that her gigs be a safe space for people of colour, LGBTQI people and women should not be a controversial statement. As later events transpired – such as LMW’s decision to host Glitterfuck, a white DJ duo who then used dancers dressed in tribal costumes as part of their set – it became apparent that the music industry is still not a safe space for many.
Princess Nokia oozes confidence but she is also humble. She thanks the sisterhood and the audience for having the luckiest job in the world. In G.O.A.T, she opens with the confession “I’m that weird girl that’s runnin’ shit”. As she lights a joint on stage and muses on intersectional feminism, it seems she really is.