Album Review: Princess Nokia – 1992 Deluxe (2017 LP)

Far from the days of Lauryn Hill, women are more represented in rap than ever. In some ways that’s a good thing, but unfortunately there’s a lot of undeserved stigma surrounding a large portion of the female artists of the genre. If there was going to be an artist who can break past the stigma and carry female empowerment in hip-hop into this generation, it’s Princess Nokia.

The themes touched about by Nokia on her new album 1992 Deluxe are often left untouched by most female artists, for example, on the song “Tomboy”, she raps about not being as perfect as other girls but the swagger and attitude of her delivery shows that she doesn’t care in the slightest. She also touches upon her childhood as a New York native. Unfortunately, throughout this personal and empowering masquerade, the music quality hasn’t really translated through as well as the thematic side of the album.

Nokia’s thick New York accent is often an asset on some tracks on 1992 Deluxe. On tracks like “Bart Simpson”, the heavy tone plays into the “unique” style that Nokia is going for. But the vocals turn sour when she attempts falsetto, something that she definitely shouldn’t attempt. There is a good range of styles on 1992 Deluxe however. Ranging from cloud rap to boom bap to experimental, the variety is where Nokia excels. Again however, with a voice and flow like hers, sometimes the attempted style switch doesn’t translate well. For example, compare Princess Nokia on tracks like “Saggy Denim” and “ABCs of New York” to “Kitana” and “Different”. Thankfully, towards the end of the album, Nokia sticks to mainly boom bap with experimental influences.

The production of 1992 Deluxe is immense and must be applauded for its tenacity. Some of the most creative and hard-hitting beats of the year are scattered throughout the album. From the abrasive “Flava” to the vapourwave inspired “Bart Simpson” to the classic New York style of “ABCs of New York”, 1992 Deluxe is no stranger to new and fresh sounds.

If 1992 Deluxe was purely an instrumental album, it would receive critical acclaim without a doubt, unfortunately, Princess Nokia was given gold and turned it to silver. When presented with the chance to sink or swim, Princess Nokia just kind of bobbed up and down like a buoy. When she shines, she shines bright but the lowlights are almost cringe-worthy. To repeat, Nokia has the potential to change the hip-hop game for women by encouraging them to embrace themselves, but she will have to see a major improvement on her next project in order to garner some clout. Hopefully on her next effort the production level stays the same as Princess Nokia can hone in on her strengths.

Review Score: 6.3 out of 10.

1992 Deluxe is out now.