In today’s creative and political climate, it’s safe to say that most of us are confused with what to do and how to act–that could even be an understatement. There’s simply so much going on… everywhere. Be it in our own homes, our social dynamic, on social media, on the world wide web, on our television sets, within our governing body… it’s hard for someone with a conscious mind today to be able to grasp at where the torrent of life is taking us, let alone take hold and start steering the boat ourselves. There are however a few that seem to know what’s up and have that firm grip on the wheel.
Whether it’s a gift from birth or a character trait hard earned through struggle and effort, these few–granted they do things in a positive light–are the people that are spearheading our future. The right future. Through creative and personal inspiration. Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, better known by her rapper name Princess Nokia is one such person, and we’ve been lucky enough to be able to learn a thing or two from the young, talented and beyond-her-years wise artist.
We initially invited the NYC-native all the way out to the West Coast to headline at our first ever Unrtd Club event–an old school house party get up in collaboration with GLDVW. Right after she scorched the house down with her fire AF performance, and just before the SWAT team bum-rushed us in an attempt to quell such a high octane force of a good time, we managed to sit down with Nokia to delve into how her mind works when it comes to making the brash and brazen music she puts out. If for some odd reason you’re unfamiliar with her work however, then you have a short hour to quickly check yourself by listening to her music here. For the smart ones that already know, continue on to read our exclusive chat that I did while accidentally wasted–yes it was an accident.
To start things off, in a nutshell, can you describe the process of creating a track?
My process of writing a song is: I wake up, and then I do the same thing I do for every ritual day that I have for writing. So when I prepare for an album, I go to the same neighborhood, I eat at the same restaurant, have the same meal, and then I go to the park where I grew up in, and I write for five hours. Then I habitually go for a swim, I smoke a joint, I go back to eat another taco at the same restaurant, then I go home–that’s my process.
During this process, how do the ideas for the songs come to mind?
I sit there for hours in my neighborhood, and I think about my entire life, and just write about whatever comes to my mind.
So now that you’re at this stage as an artist, do you think the process will evolve organically, or do you now have pre-conceived notions of how you want a song to come out sounding like?
No, I just write very honestly about whatever motif I’m thinking about, and I then translate that into rapping. Whatever it is, I can turn it into a rap now. Like I can literally say “I have eczema, I smell like shit…” And I’ll be like “I got eczema, I smell like shit!” *claps* That’s just how fucking easy it is.
“Realistically I think I would have been a pre-school teacher, or an art history teacher, or a supernatural professor–someone who worked in the supernatural field.”
When did that happen when you realized you could think in that way?
About a year ago when I started writing the record.
Before you became Princess Nokia, what did you think you were going to do when you were older?
I honestly primarily thought I was going to be a filmmaker, or a video director. And in some way I’ve been able to do that with my own videos, as I’ve directed all 14 of mine. But realistically I think I would have been a pre-school teacher, or an art history teacher, or a supernatural professor–someone who worked in the supernatural field.
So the mindset you had back then when you thought you were going to possibly be these things, fast forward to today with where you are now, is this something that’s taken for granted, or are you fully aware of the accomplishments you’ve made as Princess Nokia?
I’m very understanding of where I am. I’m from New York and I grew up in a really creative art world surrounded by other really creative young kids. New York is like a hub for all that. So coming from there, it’s not like you take things for granted for being a famous kid. When you’re like this young creative from New York, that’s just what you do all day–you make art and that’s what you live and breath. I think you’d be foolish to think that it wouldn’t parlay into your vocation as an adult. So no matter what I was doing, whether I was working as a waitress, or preparing to be a mother, or whatever the case may be, I always knew my life would be in the Arts. There’s no separation between my life and art, and my artistic life for any other medium, desires of professions I would have had. If I was going to be a teacher, I would also have been an artist. At one point I wanted to be a construction worker, but I would have still been an artist. Art doesn’t go away.
So for those that don’t come from New York, can you describe the city as a hub for creativity?
So for example me growing up in downtown–the Lower East Side of New York–me and my friends, which were all of the art kids, we all know all of the older art heads. Like the OGs who are now in their late 30s.
Do you have to be in the circle to know?
Kind of… Cause like, I grew up in the LES, so I got down with a lot of the LES cats. So if you grew up in the ’80s, you’d be hanging with Jean-Michel [Basquiat] or Madonna. It’s just hanging with all the kids from that era, but who are my age now. So growing up, we just all hung out together. Either you went to high school together, or hung out at Union Square, skated together at the skate park, or you’d all hang out at this hookie crib, or this rooftop. Like the movie Kids, anything could happen, because we have all this accessibility to go places and know people–our world is very grand. Like the amount of people we meet in New York, even as a teenager, I don’t think you can find that anywhere else. And not only that, but I think that New York kids surpass any other city in subculture…
NYC kids are very artistic, and that’s just what they do. When I was a kid–17/18 years old–what me and my friends do would be like go to a crib, make memes, do radio shows–we all had a radio show, that’s how it is in our crib club. We’d just make art together… My friend, she did all my album art, all my visuals, all my video stuff. We all collaborate, and that’s the fluidity. With New York kids, they don’t know how to do nothing but smoke weed and make art.
“I’m not like a typical rapper, I feel like I have a lot of depth in just my interest alone, in my hobbies, what makes me happy, what I do in leisure time.”
So to focus on that creativity, now that you’re in the position that you’re in, what both excites you and challenges you?
What excites me is learning new information, like a thought or subject that I like. I just like studying and reading a lot–it brings me a lot of joy. I also love being excited by art. I went to a puppet show today and I thought it was the most fantastic thing I’ve seen in forever. I hadn’t been to something that had evoked so much joy inside of me in maybe years.
How come puppetry?
Theatre is a wonderful medium of art that’s undervalued, and I have a true appreciation for many different things… I’m not like a typical rapper, I feel like I have a lot of depth in just my interest alone, in my hobbies, what makes me happy, what I do in my leisure time.
What’s your definition of a typical rapper though?
A fucking egotistical sociopath… I can be that sometimes, but at the same time, I’m actually pretty chill. I like hanging out with my fiancé and reading books. I just think I’m different from people being my own age.
So you’re just being you, as opposed to a construct of someone you want to be.
I definitely think that I take on those two aforementioned roles simultaneously without really thinking about it. At the same time though, it is very obvious that I’m not a typical rapper, and for me to pass off being one would be a joke. It’s a fucking given. I don’t wear make up to my own show. Women would typically never allow themselves to be that vulnerable in public. I don’t give a fuck at all. I’m beautiful, that’s fine, that’s period, that’s it. I don’t care about vanity, I’m here to rock the fuck out and show everybody that I can spit–and I do spit! Sure that comes with having assurance of oneself, and yeah rappers have confidence, but that’s a surface value. I throw my heart to my sleeve and just go for it.