Princess Nokia Shines as Emo Royalty on ‘A Girl Cried Red’

Princess Nokia

Princess Nokia has been labeled as a rapper throughout most of her career, but her latest mixtape proves that her musical reign extends far beyond the confines of hip hop.


A Girl Cried Red, which dropped last month, is an eight-track ode to emo music, the genre that Princess Nokia says she identifies with most. Growing up during the emo boom of the early to mid-2000s had a profound influence on her musical taste and personal style. During a recent episode of her Beats 1 Radio Show, “Voices in My Head,” she told listeners, “I’m always going to be an emo girl at heart, more than anything.”


A Girl Cried Red serves as the full expression of those emo roots, exploring ideas that are fundamental to the genre, including loneliness, abandonment, suicide, and death. Throughout the project, Princess Nokia keeps her vocals purely emo. She rarely raps and, instead, sings in a high-pitched, nasal tone that’s reminiscent of bands like Blink 182 and Hawthorne Heights. However, she does incorporate her hip hop influence into the mixtape’s production. Most of the songs make heavy use of hip hop-style beats, though there are moments where the music adopts a definitively emo structure.


Princess Nokia Fuses Emo Expression with Hip Hop Production


“Flowers and Rope,” the first track off A Girl Cried Red, captures the flow between emo and hip hop perfectly. It starts off highlighting a fast-paced guitar, but before long, the beat drops, and Princess Nokia playfully sings, “It won’t even hurt, I’m already dead / Voices in my head, monsters under my bed / I’m alone again, I lost all my friends.” Despite the darkness of the lyrics, the song has a light-hearted, high-energy sound, which is true for most of the tracks on the first half of the mixtape, including “Your Eyes Are Bleeding” and “Look Up Kid.”


“For the Night,” the third track, takes the energy down a notch, but stands out as one of the mixtape’s best songs, and easily one of the most interesting songs released this year. It’s a hypnotizing, trance experience that’s defined by a powerful beat interwoven with a marimba-like sound. In the lyrics, Princess Nokia grapples with the isolating effects of fame. At times, she’s confident and energized, repeating, “I could change your whole motherfucking life.” But, at other points, she reveals an underlying dejected loneliness, singing, “Loco from all this pain, fucked up, I misbehave / Some things will never change, blacked out, I’m not okay.”



“Interlude,” the entirely instrumental fifth track on the record, sets the tone for a much darker, more serious second half. It’s in these last few songs that we see some of the most masterful blending of emo and hip hop. The only exception is the emotrap song, “At the Top.” It’s interesting enough on its own, but feels misplaced and superfluous within the context of the full project, as if it’s included because someone decided that A Girl Cried Red desperately needed a dose of trap.


The mixtape ends on a strong note with “Little Angel,” which mourns the death of a loved one. The song brings together the most delicate elements from both emo and hip hop, blending a soft, melodic guitar and a calm, steadying beat. Princess Nokia mourns her loss, singing, “And now you’re gone, and I miss you, friend / We’ll celebrate and I’ll play pretend / Because I know I will see you again.” On an album full of emotional lyrics, these cut the deepest.


In an era where most newly released rap music all sounds the same, A Girl Cried Red gets serious props for the risks it takes and the originality it displays. Princess Nokia has created a mixtape that offers the music world a freshness it desperately needs, while showing off her unparalleled versatility as an artist.

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