MUSIC: *G.O.A.T.—A Streetwise Analysis of Princess Nokia

By Matthew Camacho (featuring Ricardo Camacho)

Destiny Nicole Frasqueri had a hard life. From a young age she had to fend for herself, taking up go-go dancing at only 16, running away from foster homes, attempting to find herself in a city that is all too easy to get lost in. After a series of mixtapes and reinventions, Destiny would go on to become Princess Nokia. Her first official LP, 1992 Deluxe, was released on September 8th of this year, and chronicles the growth and troubles of an Afro-Nuyorican girl in the 1990’s.

Photo Credit: Rough Trade – 2016

When listening to the album, one thing that caught my immediate attention was the amount of culture contained within its lyrics. Emotion, experience, and love bursts through this album’s seams. Altogether it creates an infectious feeling that overwhelms the individual while they listen.

In an effort to get a better understanding of Ms. Frasqueri and her experiences, I interviewed an individual who I knew had lived a similar life: my father. My goal with this was to not only to paint a clearer image of an often-misunderstood culture, but to also show the effects such powerful, emotional, and politically charged music can have on its audience.

Q: First off, how did you like the album?

Ricardo Camacho: “I thought the album was very catchy, and the beats were very easy to get into as well. The lyrics definitely struck a chord with me, as a man who grew up in the South Bronx, which is very similar to El Barrio, I could totally relate to a lot of Princess Nokia’s memories through her lyrics.”

Q: What would you say is your favorite song off the album?

R.C.: “You know, it’s weird, as I can’t say I have a definitive favorite song. I have different songs I like for different reasons. Some songs remind me of New York, my home, some songs are silly and remind me of my childhood and some of the bad decisions I made. For example, the song “Chinese Slippers”, reminds me of my dependence on fast food as a child.”

Q: We have kind of touched on how the album connects to you, a Puerto Rican man, could you expand on that?

RC: “Honestly, I don’t think my race had such a heavy play in the album’s effect on me, [although] Princess Nokia, being an Afro-Latina, is a great ambassador for that. I like that she talks about the Jews and Italians she grew up with, because that does a great job of showcasing the neighborhood’s progression. One song that brings back a lot of memories for me is “Brujas”. The song brought me back to being five or six years old, in my grandma’s apartment, never understanding the superstitious Catholicism that she practiced. I had always thought my grandmother was a witch, with the saints and statues of tribal Indian chiefs, with bows and money in their laps. This song reminds me of the more ‘religious’ days of my youth.”

Q: Do you think Princess Nokia’s album, and herself as an artist, are important for women and latinx communities to hear? And if so, why?

R.C.: “Honestly, no. Latin communities are living this every day, women of color as well. The people who should listen to this album, in my opinion, are the people who grew up outside these neighborhoods, who have never lived this life. A lot of this album reminds me of my youth and my culture, and that is a voice that I think outside people need to hear more. Everyone needs to expose themselves to new types of music and new cultures to form a larger worldview, and Princess Nokia can surely help with that, for people not like me and her.”

My father’s answers to these questions, as well as our own further conversations about the album, opened up a lot of doors for me. It helped me realize just how important artists of color were to all audiences, not just their own “demographic.” Princess Nokia’s 1992 Deluxe is a body of work that showcases the beauty of the Nuyorican experience, both introducing newcomers to a bustling culture and bringing a sense of nostalgia and comfort to the community it speaks of.

*[G.O.A.T..= Greatest of All Time.]

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