'A Girl Cried Red' by Princess Nokia

Rough Trade


Princess Nokia

A Girl Cried Red

Destiny Frasqueri has continuously showed her ability to drive hip hop forward as Princess Nokia while being utterly sublime when she leans into its conventions. This made her rock leanings on this latest EP so surprising, and all the more impressive as the instrumentation feels just as sharp. With this in mind though, her vocals sound totally out of place through most of the rock tracks and often leaves songs feeling under-cooked noticeably in one aspect.

The album starts with an unusual amount of guitar for Frasqueri on “Flowers and Rope” as she details a moment of distress through bouncy beats. Using these guitars, the track quickly takes on a psychedelic quality that has its spiraling vocals become more and more dreamy. Even with all the amazing sounds on display, there’s something about Frasqueri’s delivery that feels a little off as she starts transcending outside of hip hop.

While this holds “Your Eyes Are Bleeding” back a bit, there’s a beauty to the production that feels truly spiritual. Raw pain and honesty drips from Frasqueri’s lyrics as she realizes that no one has ever really looked out for her in life. Despite a repetitive writing scheme, the song’s clever use of dynamics and contrasting energies in the instrumentation carry it effortlessly through its short run.

There’s much more tangible ambiance in “For The Night” and Frasqueri dives into a much more aggressive vocal that makes the track standout. Even the arrangement goes further here as little vocal pops keep the song interesting and a demented sample that resembles the Transformers transformation sound melds seamlessly into the track. It’s interesting however despite the wondrous sounds that Frasqueri explores powerfully throughout the album that her voice itself sounds the most at home here.

“Look Up Kid” is a vicious and fast guitar track, as Frasqueri rips through her lines just as fast as her guitars shred. Though the song constantly seems like its building towards a release, it manages to create enough momentum out of its big stops to keep its lack of a resolution from feeling draining. While the sound is inherently drawing from 90’s rock on several fronts, it picks from a clever handful of ideas.

Strangely enough “Interlude” has one of the most tense guitar lines of the whole record, even as it seems to emulate emo rock wholeheartedly. Though it never finds a verse or even a climactic release in its brief run, there’s definitely something here that Frasqueri could tap into down the line.

“Morphine” is similarly brief but fully envelopes itself in trippy synths and uneven beats for an immersive and emotional listen. Frasqueri’s relentless vocals hit every end of the spectrum with grace, as she brings just as much emotion in her lyricism as her singing. Even the pounding bass that ramps up oppressively as the track ends is enough to make the song memorable.

Electricity and the spirit of the city come through in the lively production of “At The Top” as Frasqueri makes something new in a seemingly familiar production. Though her vocal style straddles monotony here at times, it’s only really noticeable because of what she brings in the song’s message and clever take on typical hip hop conventions.

“Little Angel” brings in the rock tones of the record into her slower beats, as she questions gender roles and the pain that comes from dysphoria. Between the story of the lost angel and Frasqueri’s own sense of sadness, the track is a rough but fruitful listen that finds the best of all the sounds brought forth on the album.

Words by Owen Maxwell