Princess Nokia @ Belgrave, 21/8/18

Princess Nokia, the alterego of Destiny Frasqueri, has a reputation as a revolutionary. Operating on her own terms, her DIY attitude has always had a punk air which has certainly been beneficial to her career. To have a sold-out gig at Belgrave is no mean feat. Nokia is clearly still flourishing despite her sharp generic switch between the beloved hip-hop of 1992 that made her name and her newer, emo-inspired material, A Girl Cried Red. Yet this mixtape was not met with such positivity from critics as her previous release. As a former emo kid I can’t deny I do enjoy Nokia’s new mixtape and was interested to see how a crowd would receive a combination of material.

The warm-up acts, Slut Drop’s residents Tacat and Nik Nak, each gave vivacious performances showcasing the sheer talent that the women in Leeds music scene have to offer. Packing out the large performance hall, the crowd were lively, warm and predominantly femme with real variety of ages typical of the unifying and diverse appeal of Nokia.

Bounding onto the stage shouting her love for the crowd, it was easy to see why Princess Nokia’s fans are so enamoured; it’s almost impossible not to feel as though you’re rooting for her. She elicits a visceral response from her audience, a sense of kinship and unity abounds. Princess Nokia fans were as much there for Nokia as they were for her music.

Surprisingly, tracks from A Girl Cried Red performed far better in real life than I expected and the crowd had as much enthusiasm for her new material as old. I noticed a little circle of girls dancing behind me, laughing and taking up space, something which was incredibly refreshing. High points of the show included the complete audience explosion at ‘Kitana’, Nokia’s rousing speech on empowerment and all forms of beauty leading into her performance of ‘Mine’, and her haunting performance of ‘For the Night’.

Apologising about four songs in for any seeming lack of energy, Nokia explained she was suffering from extreme exhaustion. This performance did have smatterings of strain which began to show later on, but this aside it was an enlivening performance. Princess Nokia is definitely one to watch, with a quick wit and raw talent she definitely has the potential for superstardom and this show proved that.

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