Princess Nokia A Girl Cried Red

[Rough Trade; 2018]

Rating: 2/5

Styles: emo
Others: American Football, Dashboard Confessional, Third Eye Blind

It feels like a play. Not even: a play within a play. A simulacrum that is a yearning, a longing, a stretching, a reaching, a detour from her old-school hip-hop lean that drives straight into the emo of the 1990s and early 2000s, into a childhood now magically overcome and returned to her. All those tears shed on black shirts while pure evil moved somewhere underneath the visible surface of the world. Tense and quivering, outwardly lit, with a thick smell of parking lots and the sound of being dropped out of life, dreaming with a withoutness that she has learned to be with. A Girl Cried Red replaces Nokia’s NYC authenticity for her inauthentic take on a genre that struggles to maintain itself. I appreciate that gesture — it’s important to embrace what’s authentically ours while also enfolding our inauthentic parts into ourselves: all those dream scenarios that we live and that live among us, that point us toward an elsewhere that could be ours.

Being emo is a little bit about being paranoid that you might not be emo at all. That your identity is never totally yours. That quarreling with yourself into becoming someone else is almost impossible. That Princess Nokia isn’t the only Boricua emo out there. That a radical shift in the definition of the genre is happening, in real time, thanks in part to an unexpected battalion of warriors: SoundCloud rappers. A fusion between emo and trap — rock and rap’s demented little siblings — has been going on for a while now. Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Tracy, Lil Peep (R.I.P.), and all of those other sadboys know that to live is to be exposed as living under the gaze of the Other, that to experience life is to experience the illusion of identity, dignity, and morality. This fusion, by means of erasure, removal, subtraction, and abstraction, bears a chance to discover a hidden path, to a new musical realism: that not rapping about luxury cars could lead to rapping about trailer homes, and that not rapping about designer clothes could lead to rapping about your feelings, and that your feelings, though sometimes faraway and hushed, build toward a sort of mysticism, liberating you as much as they obfuscate.

Behind all of this, the shadow of the opioid crisis in America looms large. Because it is not enough to live; one must also demonstrate that one lives, that one performs being alive, that one can perform one’s emotions. An accent that recalls skyscrapers and open fire hydrants on the streets in the summer has turned into a flat cornfield. The sun hits weakly, like a sign of banished possibility, like an acknowledgement of otherness. The light gleams an instant, the Visa card chip inserted, a knife at a wrist with the potential for bleeding, and suddenly you’re in a metaphor for the bodily: that it might mimic or have a direct relationship with the ills and woes of the poetry of mere existence. Lo, it isn’t enough. Like a Big Bang emerging at the end of the universe to begin the next, a turbid volatility rife during adolescence — where experience becomes impossible without negativity — materializes. The Person that Never Appears appears. You. A supposed paradise. Paradise being a place of rest, beyond wealth and conspiracy theory. Where your eyes close and you access the holism of A Girl Cried Red.

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