Once upon a time, I was just another misunderstood teenager with a sensitive soul from the suburbs experiencing the thrill of being emo. As far as the "scene" kid identity goes, it was a fleeting phase that my parents are grateful I grew out of, but the sad and angst-driven anthems that became the soundtrack for such a tumultuous period of my life still hold a special place in my tender heart. Fast-forward to 2018 and the emo revival has expanded from the corners of pop punk to the hip-hop world. Real ones know that rock and rap have more in common beneath the surface—rage fueled ballads that attract marginalized outcasts who escape from the chaos of their lives by congregating in mosh pits—but "emo" is having a major cross-genre moment right now. The late Lil Peep was hailed as one of the leaders of the emo rap movement alongside artists like Lil Uzi Vert, Yung Lean and Lil Xan.
The rise of the "sad boys" continues as lo-fi, teary-eyed messages of pure self-destruction are dispersed to the masses, but women are often moved to the side and non-consensually cast as muses for all the pain and suffering. Instead of waiting for an invite to the melodramatic party, Princess Nokia counters the male gaze that the emo scene can shamelessly thrive on, presenting a fresh narrative from the mind of an Afro-Latina with her A Girl Cried Red mixtape. In a recent interview with DAZED, the New York rapper explained the concept of "alternative culture" within black and brown communities of the urban world and the underlying connection with emo music.
"There's a vulnerability in associating with pain and sadness that has always lived in that narration," she said. "This is our shit. Very naturally, that's why we return to it. It's ours, it will always be ours."
The title of the mixtape was directly inspired by Dance Gavin Dance's 2006 song "The Robot With Human Hair" (just last week, the band released a new song called "Midnight Crusade" that's featured on their forthcoming eighth album Artificial Selection). Princess Nokia grabs the opening line of the track for her project's lead single "Your Eyes Are Bleeding Red," a menacing anthem about self-sabotage and the unstable path that follows when depression is treated with a heavy dose of denial.
"I always loved that image, and it's a big motif in my work," she told DAZED. "The mixtape name is supposed to mean a girl cried blood or a girl cried fury. There's so many interpretations of what red is."
The only collaborations on Princess Nokia's mixtape come from producer Tony Seltzer and Phony Ppl member Elijah Rawk on guitar. Similar to the iconic bands that influenced the project like Blink-182, Paramore, Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco and Silverstein, the core that strings all eight songs together is the reccuring theme of battling demons that are deeply rooted in depression and loneliness. During a livestream on Instagram, she declared that her intention is not to ride the "sad girl wave" by glorifying or romanticizing mental health issues. Through this collection of autotune and acoustic jams, Princess Nokia offers her personal experience within the context of the ongoing dialogues about the stigmas surrounding depression and how different aspects of your life can spiral out of control as a result.
Despite the negativity that comes attached with this overarching theme, A Girl Cried Red isn't solely immersed in bad energy. About halfway through the mixtape, Princess Nokia slips in "Look Up Kid," an upbeat and uplifting track where she encourages those who "suffer in silence" not to give up on themselves because things will get better eventually. It's like a cry for help reversed from the perspective of a concerned friend.
If A Girl Cried Red doesn't earn Princess Nokia a spot on the lineup for the last-ever Warped Tour this summer, someone may have to catch these hands! When you're ready to have your heart ripped out and smashed into pieces, let your inner scene queen roar and stream the mixtape in full below.
Like what you hear and want more? Princess Nokia will be on tour the following dates:
4/15 Indio, CA - Coachella Festival
4/20 San Francisco, CA - 1015 Folsom
4/22 Indio, CA - Coachella Festival
4/29 Chicago, IL - The Metro
5/5 Brooklyn, NY - Elsewhere
5/6 Brooklyn, NY - Elsewhere
5/12 Miami, FL - Rolling Loud Festival
5/25 Barcelona, Spain - Secret Location TBA
5/26 Madrid, Spain - Tomavistas Festival
5/27 A Coruna, Spain - Inn Club
5/31 Athens, Greece - Piraeus 117 Academy
6/1 Copenhagen, Denmark - Distortion Festival
6/2 London, UK - Field Day Festival
6/16 Richmond, CA - FEELS 6 @ Craneway Pavillion
7/7 Turku, Finland - Ruisrock
7/8 Zamárdi, Hungary - Balaton Sound Festival
7/13 Dublin, Ireland - Longitude Festival
7/14 Dour, Belguim - Dour Festival
7/15 Berlin, Germany - MELT Festival
7/19 Benicassim, Spain - Benicassim Festival
7/ 20 LisbonPortugal - Super Bock
7/21 Seyðisfjörður, Iceland - LungA Art Festival
8/18 Hamburg, Germany - Dockville Festival
8/20 London, UK - O2 Forum
8/21 Leeds, UK - Belgrave Music Hall