The prevalence of emo in rap has been one of hip-hop’s most intriguing developments. Rappers have always explored their emotion, but rarely has hip-hop accepted artists who forfeit the mirage of machismo to openly wade in their bleak outlooks on the world.
Lil Peep and Lil Uzi Vert are some of the prominent young artists who have markedly fused the emo alternative rock scene with hip-hop. Peep died tragically of an overdose in 2017. Even without his physical presence, the lane he helped carve out is intact and has most recently been explored by the ever-versatile Princess Nokia on A Girl Cried Red.
Princess Nokia, born Destiny Fraqsueri and formerly known as Wavy Spice, is a master of dynamism. As a child of the internet age, she’s able to mirror her influences and seemingly morph into myriad artistic movements, whether it’s 70s-inspired funk on Honeysuckle or futuristic electronic on Metallic Butterfly. The constant efficacy of the projects hints that she’s not merely inspired, but adept at accentuating different aspects of her temperament through a variety of genres.
She succeeds at doing that again on A Girl Cried Red, a moody 8-track mixtape that truly does the project’s Slipknot shirt-clad cover art justice. The mixtape doesn’t solely exist in gloomy soundscapes, presenting a sonic balance. There’s upbeat production such as “Flowers And Rope” and “Look Up Kid” being pulled back down to earth by the pensive gravitas of “Little Angel” and “Your Eyes Are Bleeding.”
One of the more noteworthy aspects of the project is a folksy twang that Nokia employs at junctures of the project, most notably during “Look Up Kid” and pieces of “For The Night.” The tonal flourish is a polarizing creative choice that should work for most fans of alternative rock but doesn’t resonate as well as her unencumbered crooning on, for instance, album standout “Your Eyes Are Bleeding.”
When her lithe voice stretches lament across the track’s wistful piano chops and thumping 808s – or “Little Angel’s” sanguine acoustics – it better radiates the corrupted innocence that’s at the heart of the youth-centered emo scene. Similarly impressive is her harmonious rhyming on tracks like “At The Top” and “Morphine” that showcase the perfect possibilities of fusing swaggering trap and emo sonics.