There are simply no words to explain how nervous/excited I was to see Princess Nokia’s live show. Her impressive studio debut 1992 Deluxe is packed with bangers, and ever since taking a deep dive into her thick YouTube catalog, I’ve been obsessed. Beyond her obvious skills as a lyricist and emcee, Princess Nokia’s got a message—many messages actually. A loud and proud intersectional feminist, Destiny Frasqueri often occupies multiple identities at once: Nokia’s of Afro-Puerto Rican descent, openly bi-sexual, a tomboy and a bombshell at the same time. In watching her music videos, interviews, and other random YouTube gems, I loved her natural tendency to be impeccably well-mannered, but also fully willing to get buck and throw hot soup at a racist on the subway.
That tough New York attitude came out at the Portland show as well. And despite a minor snowstorm, fans packed out the Wonder Ballroom just the same. Portland emcee Karma Rivera, tore the stage up, followed by DJ Suzi Analogue, who also was the DJ for Princess Nokia’s set.
I was a tad disappointed there wasn’t any wearable merch for me to purchase, only some copies of her LP on vinyl—I chalked that up to the tour being out of stock, or Nokia’s stated desire to not be “worshipped” in that way.
When Nokia first addressed the crowd she quickly established that she intended the show to be a safe space for women, people of color, and anyone identifying as LGBTQIA. With the exception of maybe one song, Princess Nokia’s set list comprised all the songs that I needed to hear, including hard, energetic joints like “Tom Boy,” and “Kitana,” and ancestral anthems like “Brujas,” and “Mine.”
There were some sound issues, which Nokia insisted be fixed about a third of the way through due to her having to strain her voice to compete with the monitors. I was personally grateful for the fix, since I could hear her much more clearly after.
My favorite moments were when Ms. Destiny dropped into her super-low register for tracks like “G.O.A.T.,” and “Bart Simpson,“ and succinctly talked her shit on "Receipts.” On a few occasions Nokia came down into the crowd to dance and interact with fans. As anyone who’s been to the Wonder will know, there’s usually a gap between the stage and the standing-room-only audience. At the Princess Nokia show, Destiny kindly asked security to remove the barriers and let fans get closer to the stage platform. Then came another highlight of the night: when Nokia scolded at least one security team member for manhandling her female fans up front, repeatedly saying “get your hands off of her” and “or I will have you fired.”
Some minutes later, Nokia announced she'd be singing for the remainder of her set, and warned the audience not to ruin a good thing (i.e. security letting us rush the stage) by wildin' out. She also reassured venue staff, saying that all she’s bringing is “divine feminine energy,” and that her predominantly female audience was not interested in inciting a riot, but just to celebrate ourselves and connect with our fave.
Despite there not being much in the way of visual backdrops or extra performers, (just a multicolored balloon arch above DJ Suzi Analogue's setup), Princess Nokia left me feeling totally satiated.