Modern Day Riot Grrrl: Princess Nokia’s voice of feminine autonomy and embracing your sexuality

Destiny Frasqueri is the rapper, activist and a patron saint of girl power known by the name of Princess Nokia. Frasqueri is an artist imbued with purpose and something to prove, as her songs tackle female autonomy, empowerment and importance of embracing your sexuality. In growing up between Spanish Harlem and the Lower East Side of New York, Frasqueri songs revive the days of New York’s gritter side before gentrification. Her songs pay homage to early 90’s hip-hop artist as she innovates with the prime-era of Missy Elliott and Salt-N-Pepa. In live performance, Nokia affirms her authority and power on stage as the self-sufficient strong woman that smashes sexist challenges and gender binary. In riot grrrl fashion, Nokia often takes the stage sided by her girl squad upfront as she reclaims her sexuality and raps with a ruthless confidence.

Nokia is never the kind of girl to fall into stereotypes. In one minute she’s a glamorous powerhouse feminist and the next, a down to earth tomboy, sporting a sports bra and baggy jeans. Body positivity and feminine autonomy is a recurring theme throughout Nokia’s songs. A whistle and drum roll set off “Tomboy” like a firecracker as snabs hitt, Nokia spits an in-your face anthem that knocks down the male gaze with both poise and bravado. In the music video for “Tomboy” Nokia brings us into her world, hitting the basketball courts with her girlfriends and slurping cereal milk on the couch next to her grandmother. Nokia sports a boyish, careless behavior while also demonstrating the vitality of being fierce and unapologetic in your own skin. She raps with ferocity and vigor on lines that roll off the tongue, “With my little titties and my phat belly/ I could take your man if you finna let me/It’s a guarantee that he won’t forget me/My body little my soul is heavy”. Nokia teaches the viewer the importance of embracing who we are as she spreads body-positivity and embraces her tomboyish ways unapologetically. Nokia asserts the right to define her own sexuality and challenge the hierarchy that equates female beauty. Her words speak to girls who continuously fight to carve out spaces from themselves in various male-dominated scenes.

3 comments on “Modern Day Riot Grrrl: Princess Nokia’s voice of feminine autonomy and embracing your sexualityAdd yours →

  1. Abbie – I’m really glad that you chose to talk about this song! Your analysis eloquently states the reasons I’m a fan of Princess Nokia – she doesn’t take shit from anyone. The way you tied the description of this song to riot grrrl, specifically your last sentence, was helpful in drawing a connection between riot grrrl and musicians I am more familiar with. I am not familiar with the majority of the bands highlighted in the riot grrrl reading, but after reading your post, I was able to find these sentiments in songs I grew up listening to.

  2. Your blog post associating Princess Nokia to the feminist punk riot grrrl movement brings to light the significance of “Tom Boy” in ways I have never before considered. I appreciate your incorporation of Princess Nokia’s stage presence during live performances as upholding the principles of previous riot grrrl bands. I think the “feminine autonomy” and “reclaiming of sexuality” you address in Nokia’s image is crucial to but also distinct from the riot grrrl punk music genre. This said, however, your argument that Nokia “asserts the right to define her own sexuality and challenge the hierarchy that equates female beauty” as well as her campaign to “carve out spaces for [girls] in various male-dominated scenes” perfectly match the ideology of riot grrrl. I am interested, however, in a deeper analysis of her lyric, “My body little my soul is heavy.” Do you think that line has something to do with her personal struggles with gender and femininity, or is it a protest against something much bigger?

  3. I found this song tremendously refreshing and loved it as much as I love how you dub her “the patron saint of girl power” – it really does justice to the multiple levels of protest that her message and presentation of self are operating on. Also, by titling your post in a way that effectively grounds Princess Nokia in relation to the Riot Grrrl movement is really interesting because it works well with the idea of current artists seeking to make the spaces of creation and production of music more expansive and inclusive. After watching the video, I found myself still struggling to understand exactly how she is engaging with the term “tomboy,” which is so heavily featured in the song (as the title and a prominent part of the chorus). I’m wondering is she aiming to reclaim that particular stereotype and turn it into a positive source of empowerment? Is she suggesting that labels like “tomboy” are irrelevant in terms of standards of beauty? Or perhaps both? Are those two things mutually exclusive?

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