I can venture into any realm of music or character of my choosing without confusion […My] new music is cosmic and three-dimensional, and it will really speak of who Princess Nokia is. Princess Nokia is sound. It is progression. It is all that I am.
– Princess Nokia, Bullet Magazine.
I was born in Hampshire, England. Hampshire is one of the least diverse places in the world; mainly lived in by gypsy travellers and farmers, the majority of my conversations growing up went like this: ‘how do you feel about them badgers, then?’
Having grown up with a dad who could only be described as a complete lunatic, I had a very eclectic taste in music from a young age. Instead of the typical parent banning music they thought was too rambunctious or inappropriate, my dad did quite the opposite: he encouraged it. In fact, whilst all my primary school friends were listening to S Club 7 and The Backstreet Boys, I was being musically educated with the likes of Pink Floyd, Genesis, Portishead, Frankie Goes to Hollywood- and anything else deemed controversial to encourage your 7 year old daughter to listen to.
I have a wide selection of old-school CDs that he burnt for me, and that of which I was only allowed to listen to if I called them by their assigned names i.e. Jamiroquai was to be called ‘Jamiro-crap’ (I still stand by the fact Jamiroquai is awesome). When I got a dance mat, age 10, one of the songs was ‘The Bad Touch’ and upon hearing this, my elated dad gave me the Bloodhound Gang CD and told me to listen to all of it. That was to be my sex education.
By now you probably understand why I was, and am, always in search of the weird and the wonderful, and I praise my dad for being the eccentric nut-job he’s so proud to be. It means I’m proud of who I am too.
Fast forward to my time at university in Birmingham, where I made friends who were from around the world, and was introduced in to the depths of the underground music scenes and cultures; where I could nurture my love of controversial and progressive art, and immerse myself in all the new and fresh sounds that spoke to me on every level.
During my time at university I was dealing with PTSD and a recent diagnosis of Bi-Polar disorder. Music was my therapy- the company I needed when I didn’t have company, the outlet for me to express my emotions without ever saying a word. Art has forever been an important tool for many to use when they don’t have a voice, and who want to explore all angles of their being: sexually, spiritually, creatively and emotionally. That you are not merely just one person, but that there are multiple facets to each individual – a claim that helped sooth my anxiety, and took the sharp edge off my then-recent diagnosis.
There’s been a profound movement in the last few years where female artists are re-shaping the R&B and hip-hop scenes. Beyonce’s sister Solange is making waves with woozy beats that are there to challenge racism and sexism: ‘Walk in your ways, so you can sleep at night/Walk in your ways, so you can wake up and rise’. With Solange teaming up with London-born artist, Kelela, on her song ‘Scales’, there’s a sense of connection, communication and unity between female artists from inner city US and UK.
Kelela’s work is a combination of powerfully rhythmic beats, merged beautifully with her seductively mesmerizing voice. She couples this with statement actions; bravely cutting off her dreads in the video for ‘The Message’. Over the last few years, the UK has seen an emergence of artists breaking the conventional mould, with female musicians producing more honest lyrics and ‘wonky’ beats, such as that of IAMDDB and FKA Twigs, who discusses further with Dazed Magazine:
If you set me in a different era, up against artists from 20 or 30 years ago, what I’m doing wouldn’t seem that unique. Obviously it’s unique to me, and they’re unique to them, but it wouldn’t seem like I was pushing the boundaries of creativity, because everyone was doing it then
Similarly we have ABRA and Princess Nokia from New York, both of who produce hypnotic beats to ghostly synths. Princess Nokia challenges the boundaries of hip-hop, to create music that speaks to people from around the world, as well as being an advocate of feminism. Fact Magazine expands on this, stating how her ‘feminist credentials were put beyond dispute when she allegedly punched a male member of an audience at a Cambridge University show for sexist heckles.’
Tommy Genesis from Vancouver, who’s signed to Awful Records, has a similar outtake to her art but with a focus on provoking gender stereotypes: ‘[If] I had it my way you wouldn’t know my gender. I hate being put in any box’. Her hyper-sexuality; aggressive, Siren-like lyrics remind me of an early Tyler the Creator, especially in her song ‘Angelina’. These artists are making some serious space as they combat the limitations put upon them. They are essential to a progressive, forward-thinking society – with the music industry fronting the battle.
I feel involved with these musicians – not just through their articulate lyrics and eloquence – but because, despite the obvious differences, I also chose to reject the social restraints and labels that I was offered. I hope to expand my knowledge by expanding my playground- so that I can continue to explore and discover through metamorphic art: a secret society for the ambitious and curious.