Have you heard the poem of the blind men and the elephant? Each going up to different parts of the elephant, exclaiming to the know the true nature of the animal. One felt its tusk and determined it is like a spear, another felt the knee and declared it much like a tree. These blind men all argued that their observations were right and though all partially correct, were all in the wrong. Perspective is a fickle thing. And perspective is what Princess Nokia attempts to tackle with their 1-2 punch of album releases. “Everything Is Beautiful” and “Everything Sucks”.
Upon first listen of “Everything Sucks” it’s an album that follows Princess Nokia’s descent into a hedonistic, rave heavy, outward facing rebellious lifestyle finishing in a dark disparate tale speaking on the past on “Just a Kid” of their life growing up and why they are the way they are without resolution. The follow up album “Everything Is Beautiful” starts with “Green Eggs & Ham”- being in the now of “Just a Kid” in the same point in their history with a cheerful brightening of that same story told, ending in the cathartic “The Conclusion”.
Though it is deceptively called “The Conclusion”. Its content serves as an introduction to Princess Nokia’s life in the now, juxtaposing the end of “Everything Sucks” that talks about the past and leaves with no real ending. This among other things leads me to believe that the albums, though antitheses to each other are meant to be merged together, bookended on both sides by each last track “Just a Kid” and “The Conclusion” where after listening to both albums, we find ourselves somewhere in the middle the beginning tracks “Green eggs & Ham” and “ Harley Quinn” are your own personal start, an agreement with one perspective over the other. Starting with “Just a Kid”, an adult holding on to their past, we’ll move up through the ending on “Harley Quinn” then jump to “The Conclusion” to “Green Eggs & Ham”. Trying to weave our own conclusion on what is being said and unsaid.
“Just a Kid” brings all the anger and regret about the past things they’re done and has yet to do, almost like an introduction and explanation for the things they’re about to say almost blaming the outward experiences they had growing up as to what they have become and for what they tell you, in such a bleak way, you empathize as to why they would say “Everything Sucks”-they are a product of their environment, with lyrics like “ on sad days, man I really miss my mother/only get one and you never get another” to talking about their adoption situation “ I got marks on my face/disassociate my thoughts go erase”, where “ the patterns repeat and come back right here” starting the beginning of their life.
“Woes” is a woozy track about being high and hanging with the misfits. Woes is a common slang for friends and them talking about being high on shrooms definitely play into the very slow motion drugged out delivery and beat. Talking about “Giving you what you asking for” as a meta way of preparing for the seamless transition in to “Balenciaga”-their own take on the common self-focused materialism themes in trap music today.
“Balenciaga’s instant effectiveness with their first sentence “Sketchers looking like Balenciagas” already clues you into their independence from the show and tell nature of mainstream trap, and how they do their own thing against all the hate over a minimalist beat, that sonically sounds like the piano that we find on “Practice”.
Where they talk about calling themselves the underground mainstream while rapping and flexing with accomplishments like “no label deal but finesse Coachella” while taking shots at “industry bitches who wanna be different but you’re still selling pop.” Switching between a quick referential flow in the short chorus’ to a hard-multi-syllabic run on their verses. All this is practice for the club banger “I Like Him”.
On “I Like Him” while Princess Nokia identifies as a Non-binary bisexual, they really show an empowered perspective of choosing what guy they want, liking multiple dudes and flipping the script on most male dominated club tracks. “I’m the player and the pimp” and lyrics like” you not taming me you just entertaining me.” All the while painting a picture of playing a drug dealer letting him take the fall for the drugs and being so sexually gifted that he “lets” them not have to take the stand for him. Ending with the line “if you play with me, you’ll have to pay the fee”, coincidentally the title of the next track. “Fee Fi Foe” with a minute and a half straight of rapping about remaining independent staying true to themselves ending with a surprising and heartfelt prayer, that plays as an interlude for some of the hardest lines on “Gross”.
While the chorus isn’t the most confident to sing along to, they throw honest lines like “if you think you hate me you gonna hate me more” as they mix biblical passages with Santeria actions as they continue their duality theme of being “the priestess and the reverend” where their outward rebellion brims with confidence and potential psychosis leading the wildest, darkest and possibly captivating track on the album.
“Welcome to the Circus starts with a rendition of what was originally a war song turned in to the popular circus theme (the exact one you’re thinking about right now) talking about doing this for a higher purpose, with bars like “this is for the people with a purpose tryna fight the evil and the burden/I am for the children and for learning/open up your mind instead of hurtin’” that gives an odd juxtaposition with what sounds like a terror circus as the backdrop channeling the madness within going right into what sounds likes Nu-Metal band Disturbed’s “Down with the Sickness” inspired growl of “Crazy House”.
“Crazy House” has them falling deeper into a madness as almost a way to cope with the environment around them, calling themselves “ a fallen angel hitting you with my halo” really bring the rave like hedonistic flavor of the album to a crest as they try to escape the crazy house that could only be perceived as their own mind. With a catchy, yet scary thumping bass and rave like electronics. That transitions in to “Harley Quinn”.
With one of the first words out of their mouth referencing the third track as well as the fourth, and at their strongest in harnessing the darkness within them, they say “ I’m disrespectful, offensive and I have nothing to prove.” Before going into attempting to push away every listener cursing out every relative, the outward channeling of all the angst, anger and despair caused by the issues and events going on in their life. Someone who’s perspective is that of a bold negativeness that is consumed by that, becoming trapped in the mind and world they’ve created through their view on things ending the album with the conclusion that “Everything Sucks”.
Making our jump to the other side “The Conclusion” lyrically is just as much as an introduction as a conclusion, that sounds like landing on a cloud with antithetical theming to “Just a Kid”, talking about who they are now focusing inward (The Conclusion), relative to what they were before focusing outward (“Just a Kid”), in what sounds like a heroin induced stream of consciousness. With glossy glistening tambourines, that though it sounds happy and aloof, is very stern, in an almost spoken word delivery about the hard lessons they’ve learned and honesty with themselves and what they do. Playing on multiple contradicting dualities like “turned my heartbreak into poetry”, yet turns around and says “ don’t fall in love with a poet, they really just leeches”, lines like “ I’m bad at spoken word, so I became a rapper”, in a completely spoken word rhythm. A heartfelt “conclusion” making no difference between themselves and the listener, with instructions on how to experience this album with what they will go in to next on “I Am Free”.
Starting with the words “no ego” said multiple times this track parallels the talk and rhythm, about friendships on “Woes” with an inner examination of what they’ve been going through, letting go of the negative energy around them, still under that stream of consciousness from “The Conclusion” and giving themselves the confidence to move forward. All while continuing the spoken word, almost trance-like speaking on their emotions while still referencing its opposite track.
“I Am Free” sonically transitions into “Heart” where they talk about what they not relative to what other women might be into with lyrics like “ I may not have a lot of clout, but I got heart” over a tiny, compact melody that mirrors lines like “even when I’m confident I’m kinda insecure”. But subverts expectations by saying that their worse than these other girls, but comes to a serenity about themselves as they reference Kanye West’s rap on his well-received “Graduation”, “everything I’m not makes me everything I am.”
Introducing one of three features on the album, as well as a confidence boosting guitar and snare combo aptly preceding the lyrics “Coming back with the new groove”, “Blessings” has their rapping in a traditional sense with one liners like “me by myself is a whole move”. They get more and more aggressive in their rapping and confidence with the most powerful line on the album “you cast manipulation, I cast the light inside” leaving a moment for the listener to truly grasp what was said before the guitar tone changes on the next track “Sunday Best”.
With a small tone change between the guitar and drums, “Sunday Best” sonically hits like a Rage Against The Machine song, with island delivery, shouting out the santerias with features that flow into the lovely keyboard and beat of “Soul Food Y Adobo”, with food raps that hits a city 1st gen immigrant’s childhood memory harder than anything Action Bronson or Rick Ross has done in recent memory, and those food raps and childhood memories thematically fit right in to “S.H.I.T (Sugar Honey Iced Tea)”.
Another instrumental theme change as now trumpets and horns that sound like a gospel anthem sound like a victory lap around the block subbing multiple women in the industry. Oddly enough, these subs come off without a hint of venom, even then brushing off their hate and “stay praying for them”. “ I got no hate in my heart” fits this song theme snugly with the happy braggadocio that one feels walking down the street on a really good day, its tough not to relate to the feelings this track exudes. Leading in to the quick catchy interlude of wavy, reminiscent of a N.E.R.D Pharrell track that sonically fits with the crux of this entire project.
“Gemini” sounds like it’s coming out of a 90s radio where they flow like a smooth 70’s record, with duality bars for days. Describing themselves with lines like “I am Gryffindor but don’t move like snake”, “two heads, one eye”, and “the sun and the moon yes it do go together”. Duality themes persist as they change tones when they are talking about the positives and negatives of their personality. This is where the inward facing Princess Nokia really shines, understanding the concept of self, and though alone, finds power in that, as they rap “a poet and a dreamer ima seize the world and take it”.
“Wash & Sets” is a collage of childhood memories placed on top of the realities of adulthood and growing up and fighting against it. The reality of adulthood hits with the bridge “tax return, gotta learn this/ growing up fucking sucks, shit” , and talking about financial problems and how it directly correlates to most of their adult problems wanting them to go their “Happy Place”.
Use of kalimba and piano, they rap for the people who were just like them growing up on “Happy Place” where their main goal is getting to that “Happy P”, with a quick verse of bragging how their ex’s come back to them even while they contradictorily hate them. Yet on this track is where you notice that inward understanding and happiness, starts to become something they chase from the childhood memories of “Wash & Set” and slowly devolves into their mind just as their opposing track does the same. Leading in to “Green Eggs & Ham” the happiest, big crest over the moon, in accepting their happiness and optimistic perspective, living in that moment, while us the listener knows full well the negativity all around them playing directly against “Just a Kid”. Teaching that your choice of perspective, living in the now, relative to constantly looking back in the past can hold you back and if you can remember the good you can still hold the inner light of childhood within.
Talking about growth as a person, one grew up and found the inner light within, whereas one who pushed outwards projecting their angers out on to the world and found happiness in their crazy mind and the similar people around them. Hence why “Everything Sucks” leaves without a real conclusion played forward or backward, and “Everything is beautiful has a beginning and “end” only in name- both continue, and as the blind men and the elephant, continuing life with different perspectives.
Is what one could take from listening to this project this way. Yet it leads us to the two opposing album covers with one final switch. “Everything Sucks” has Princess Nokia looking directly at the camera with an almost gritty realism of what life is about whereas “Everything is Beautiful” has them looking away from the camera holding a smile with a bloody nose that infers an optimism that is out of place. Knowing what occurs in both albums, having these album covers almost flipped in impression leaves you with a tinge of sarcasm. Is the perspective of happiness and inward growth a bit deluded? Or is the negativity, and the outward lashing out at everyone self-destructive yet realistic?
This is where Princess Nokia challenges you on your perspective comes in to play, and your mix and match opinion between these two extremes. For you to look inward as to your own reaction to their songs and words, and to how that influences or was influenced by, Princess Nokia themselves. A bold challenging concept to undertake, a wonderful project came out of it and us blind people touching this immaterial thing called life, have got a better grasp on it, for it.
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