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Princess Nokia
Everything is Beautiful/Everything Sucks Nick Roseblade , March 13th, 2020 10:51

A new double album from Princess Nokia is a game of two halves, finds Nick Roseblade

When Princess Nokia, Destiny Frasqueri, released her debut album 1992: Deluxe in 2017, it made you catch your breath, there was something different about it. Musically, the beats were barbaric, but it was the lyrics that made you sit up and pay attention. They were peppered with odd pop cultural references that didn’t make a lot of sense at first, but her delivery was captivating like few other rappers, and felt more akin to Nikki D than Nikki Minaj.

Expectation was high for a follow up. In 2018 Frasqueri released the A Girl Cried Red mixtape. It filled the hole of people wanting a new album, without being a new album. This gave her time to focus on the job at hand. Writing her hardest album to date. Now the Nuyorican rapper has returned with her proper follow up, the double album Everything is Beautiful/Everything Sucks.

Each album lasts half an hour, feeling more like complementary suites, or two sides of a bigger project then two individual releases. Everything is Beautiful sees Frasqueri let her guard down and deliver more vulnerable lyrics than we’ve previously heard from her. Instead of the usual bravado, here she is more reflective while rapping about her sexual orientation, body positivity, surviving trauma, the toxicity of social media and generally taking stock of where she is whilst remembering where she’s from. Musically everything has a low-tempo bounce to it. It’s poppy, but not saccharine.

‘Wavy’ is a nice call back to her original Wavy Spice SoundCloud recordings. The standout track is ‘Sunday Best’. Part of the charm is down to the guest sports from Oshun and long-time collaborators Onyx Collective. Here Frasqueri shares the spotlight so Oshun can shine. When they harmonise, it is delicate but with a hint of optimism. New York jazz punks Onyx Collective provide a backing track that gently builds momentum while keeping things breezy.

The ten tracks that make up Everything Sucks are a far more lairy affair. Here Frasqueri’s vocals are surrounded by the guttural productions that made 1992: Deluxe such a brusque joy. Stuttering trap beats and wonky basslines are the order of the day. Opening track ‘Harley Quinn’ is reminiscent of ‘Tomboy’ and features the line “Who that? Who that?” This is a nice throwback to her past, but it’s more than mere lip service for her fanbase.

Throughout she is unapologetic “I’m disrespectful, offensive. And I’ve got nothing to prove”. But looking through the red mist it’s it’s hard to see who she is pissed off at, apart from anyone and everyone. When she focuses her anger, she is devastating. ‘Balenciaga’ is a scathing attack on social media and Instagram celebrities “Dress for myself, I don't dress for hype. I dress for myself; you dress for the likes”. You can mentally see her targets and she picks them off expertly, delivering the kinds of freestyle battle raps that made her so fascinatingly charismatic in the first place.

Everything is Beautiful/Everything Sucks is a fun album that allows Frasqueri to show both sides of her personality. One being polished pop the other gritty hip-hop. On Everything is Beautiful Frasqueri has released a more cohesive collection of pop songs than on her 2015 mixtape Honeysuckle. It feels like a step up. Not only can Frasqueri release underground bangers, but she could become a legit popstar, if she wanted.

The main problem with Everything is Beautiful/Everything Sucks is that it doesn’t contain anything as devastating as ‘G.O.A.T.’, ‘Tomboy’ or ‘Kitana’. The songs never quite hit the same vein of intensity, catchiness and lyrical abstraction. There are moments when it comes close. ‘Harley Quinn’ and ‘Gross’ are excellent, but there is a feeling we’ve been here before. ‘Crazy House’ and ‘Welcome to the Circus’ are fun high-octane romps, but there are motifs that sound a bit Insane Clown Posse – even with references to Faygo and complete with demonic fairground music. This is a shame. Frasqueri is better than this.

After listening to Everything is Beautiful/Everything Sucks we still don’t really know who Princess Nokia is, and to a degree neither does Frasqueri. But we are starting to get a better idea. The call back to her earlier releases is a nice touch that original fans will enjoy, but it also shows that she hasn’t forgot where she’s from. Frasqueri might not be the Sugar Honey Iced Tea just yet, but she is on her way to becoming it.