One of the most interesting projects I’ve listened to this week has been Princess Nokia’s newest mixtape A Girl Cried Red. AppleMusic categorizes it as hip-hop/rap, and Spotify doesn’t list a genre. Truly, the lack of categorization is the most accurate description of A Girl Cried Red. The lyrics are introspective, emotional, and retrospective. This writing style is typical of rock music. Following up the rock leaning lyrics is the unorthodox production she’s chosen. Strumming guitars fill some tracks, and her chants are reminiscent of punk energy. What brings the sound back to hip-hop are the 808 drum kicks, and their pattern. How does this get categorized as hip-hop/rap?
First, a bit about Princess Nokia. She’s a 25-year-old rapper hailing from NYC, who also has a radio segment on AppleMusic called The Voices In My Head. She’s been releasing music since 2014 with her breakout project releasing in 2016, the mixtape 1992. Following critical acclaim, it was later expanded and rereleased as the album 1992 Deluxe. The image I had of Nokia following this project was of a tomboyish rapper who has flows for days and knows the classic NYC rap heritage. What I didn’t expect was the new direction within A Girl Cried Red.
I believe A Girl Cried Red is a new way to format hip-hop, a new way to use it. By adding sounds from rock, introspective lyrics, and energy from punk, hip-hop bends, but it doesn’t break. It allows the typically superficial genre to express her intimate personal thoughts. This is a big departure from the either-or dichotomy we currently have: either woke, “conscious” rap or shallow, materialistic rap. In this way, hip-hop becomes more than revolution and streams. In the hands of the creative, it’s an art form. A Girl Cried Red stands out amongst a field of triplet flows, ad-libs, and female rapper beef.
That leads me into the final thing I love surrounding this project. It seems to work within its own capacity. The promotion for it didn’t include boasts about being the best in the game or bringing anything new to the table. Suffice it to say, the music speaks for itself. All other conflict is unnecessary. This means A Girl Cried Red has life after the current trend has shifted since its existence isn’t purely a rejection of the current trends. This implies that the need for making this project was fulfilling an artistic vision, of giving fans a focused effort.
Princess Nokia has provided a sincere work, and in effect has created something people use to get through their days. She isn’t a mouthpiece for anyone else’s words, she doesn’t try to become your leader or do the most. This is a strong, humble mentality, and because she’s an artist, we see it manifested in original projects like A Girl Cried Red.