When it was first announced that Princess Nokia would be supported by Moor Mother and Gaika during Liverpool Music Week it left many underground hip hop fans salivating. All three were originally scheduled to appear at the inaugural Safe As Milk festival earlier this year, but its cancellation meant that fans of all three artists would miss out on the opportunity. Liverpool seemed to offer them another chance, but it also wasn’t to be. An announcement weeks prior to the UK’s number one city festival revealed that Gaika would only be DJing, with Flohio and God Colony performing as part of his ‘Spectacular Empire’ world tour which involves Gaika showcasing around 30 like-minded artists.
Opening this intriguing, hip hop-themed night was the Philadelphia-based Afrofuturist poet, soundscape artist and activist Moor Mother. Coming to wider attention last year with her album ‘Fetish Bones’, Moor Mother combines an abrasive blend of hardcore electronics with sociopolitical-historical lyrics about America’s dark and racist past. It’s hip hop like you’ve never heard it before. On record it can be raw and terrifying but in a way that demands your attention, and during her 30-minute performance in Liverpool Moor Mother did exactly that. Those who turned up later on really missed out on a truly original artist, with the highlight of her set being ‘Hardware’ from the ‘Crimes Waves’ EP she released with Mental Jewelry over the summer.
Championed by online publications such as Crack and The Fader, as well as BBC 6 Music presenter Mary Anne Hobbs, 24-year-old Bermondsey-based MC Flohio also put in an impressive showing during her 30-minute set. Backed up by the Merseyside-born production duo God Colony, Flohio brought sharp and confident rhymes over some dark, grime-tinged beats to an audience that, for the most part, were being exposed to her work for the very first time. Touring as part of Gaika’s ‘Spectacular Empire’ world tour (who took over from God Colony on the decks afterwards), Flohio will surely become known to many others over the coming months.
The latest incarnation of 25-year-old Calvin Klein model Destiny Frasqueri (who has been making music since 2010 as both Wavy Spice and Destiny), Princess Nokia brings a blend of 90s-inspired east coast hip hop and trap rap that’s had people talking over the past 12 months. Certainly not lacking in confidence, Princess Nokia’s rhymes range from the aggressive and boastful, to the nerdy and playful, with her strong support for the LGBT community and feminist causes earning her an increasingly dedicated following.
If you’ve heard of her before it will likely be via the online hit ‘Tomboy’ which has been viewed over four and a half million times. More recently she’s become almost as famous for her actions as she has for her music, from assaulting a member of the audience at a show who she claimed harassed her, to throwing hot soup on a racist passenger on the New York Subway. When it comes to performing live her shows have been met with rave reviews, especially from her adoring fans.
Her Liverpool debut would definitely be a night to remember, but not necessarily for a great performance that many were anticipating. Things didn’t get off to the best of starts with Princess Nokia arriving on stage 45-minutes later than scheduled. Being her only UK show outside London this year, fans travelling in from nearby cities such as Manchester were forced to make an early dash for the exits to catch trains home, either only catching the start or nothing at all.
Coming out with a bang to trap-inspired tracks such as ‘Tomboy’ and ‘Brujas’, Princess Nokia was quick to lay down some ground rules stating her shows are safe spaces for women, the LGBT community and people of colour. However, when she asked that all these people come to the front, there was some resistance from a number of individuals who were unwilling to make way. This clearly pissed her off and as a result she gave one member of the audience a piece of her mind before asking them to leave.
Performance-wise it was a fairly uneven show, with the continued interruptions harming the flow. And aside from the 90s-inspired ‘ABCs of New York’ and ‘Saggy Denim’ her set was also lacking enough solid material, with several tracks feeling like filler. Whatever you’re opinion of Princess Nokia though, she’s certainly fascinating and hard to ignore. If she can back up her unapologetic personality with more high quality tunes then there’s no reason why her star can’t continue to rise.