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  • Writer's pictureVeronica Irwin

In Defense of Princess Nokia

Updated: Mar 25, 2020


The Berkeley B-Side

Those are the words I saw plastered all over my friends’ Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages when I woke up on February 16th. It’s a quote Princess Nokia angrily spouted the night before at a charity show for Cambridge University after punching an audience member for yelling, “dirty obscenities, like ‘show me your tits’” according to the University’s women and non-binary people of color publication, Fly. She also spilled her drink on him. It was fucking awesome.

Given, I have been a fan of Princess Nokia since the first time my friends played her hit song “Tomboy” at one of their apartment parties. My friends all yelled, “My little titties and my fat belly!” and all I could think was “Yes, this is SO good.” But the more I listened to her the more I came to realize her activism goes beyond just song lyrics. In her interviews she is vocal about reclaiming the word “bitch,” or criticizing a culture in which no one asks the men what they think of female hip-hop. She comes from a rough upbringing, losing her mother to AIDS before she was ten and being brought up in foster care with her cousin. She says that’s what’s so cool about her music, because it is so much about ,“being a really unapologetic…tough feminist.”  In addition to rapping, her SoundCloud is also home to spoken word and her podcast series, “Smart Girls Club.”

Princess Nokia has previously said, “I really hope that what girls convey from my music, or from my message, or even from my actions is that it is okay to be unapologetic as long as you do it with dignity.” In speaking with Fly about the event at Cambridge, she made it clear that she, “does not condone violence,” but rather that she felt what occurred was a threat to her personal safety, and that she has a “zero-tolerance” policy on “instances of sexism and sexual harassment.” The audience member, of course, was humorously immature and denied everything, making her out to be a so-called angry black woman. Thus, though her physical response in itself might be controversial, she still should be celebrated in her willingness to take a leading role in condemning this kind of behavior, even when some people will say she was overreacting, or making it all up.

The incident is exemplary of a larger trend of how bad-ass, feminist, artists of color in the hip-hop community are being received as of late. Rihanna’s “Sex With Me” is an in-your-face reclaiming of her sexuality and prowess, but is instead so often treated as another reason to objectify her. Too many times have I seen white-cis men cringe or make a comment about being called, “albino alligators” in Beyonce’s song “Formation” — as if she’s not allowed to perform for something other than a white male audience. Even though these women should be praised for taking pride in their sexuality and race, it’s still considered controversial for them to do so. And so, I am not surprised that this audience member at Cambridge shouted such objectifying things at Princess Nokia, and expected no repercussions. We see it all the time, and it needs to stop. Princess Nokia, I applaud you.

Written By Veronica Irwin

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