PRINCESS NOKIA with DJ TNT and JJ ROCK at YES YES Y’ALL FIFTH ANNIVERSARY PARTY at CODA (794 Bathurst), Friday (February 21), doors 10 pm. $10-$12.
One day in early 2013, Destiny Nicole woke up crying. At the time, the 21-year-old was gaining notoriety online as an experimental rapper with a spoken-word club track called Bitch I'm Posh, released under the grrrl power-inspired moniker Wavy Spice.
She quickly followed that with songs showcasing more diverse flow patterns and beats referencing her Afrocentric upbringing in Spanish Harlem and Taino and Puerto Rican heritage. Labels started calling, and so did bloggers and music writers, who announced the discovery of a new, hard-hitting banjee-girl MC from Harlem, "the self-professed leader of cunt wave."
Cue the existential crisis.
"That whole Wavy Spice, 90s thing, it wasn't who I was or what I saw myself doing in the future," she explains. "It was very representative of something that I'm not. I'm not trendy and I'm not popular."
After a pep talk from her boyfriend, Wavy Spice was no more. She cut ties with her label, renamed herself Princess Nokia and spent the next 10 months in producer OWWWLS's studio working on her debut album, Metallic Butterfly, which she plans to release independently in March.
An amalgam of trip-hop, UK grime, R&B, drum 'n' bass and West African rhythms with an emphasis on ethereal ambience, the album is her attempt to craft a futurist sound that will offer "a new aesthetic for a generation.
"The goal is to make something that's not going to catch on easily. It's going to catch on because it's good," she says. "I'm going to spend a year creating something wonderful so I feel like I deserve all this press and this praise."
She continues, "I've created this world in my head that is reflective of what I see outside. It's 2014. I'm from Harlem. I currently live in the Bronx. What does a futuristic ghetto look like? People are still using prepaid phones. People are selling food on the train. Girls are barefoot outside, calling their parents 'n' shit. That's very real. That's futuristic inner city. It's the gritty underworld."
The name Princess Nokia partly springs from there ideas about modern-day dystopias. It also gives a nod to her love of sci-fi, fantasy, anime - specifically Hayao Miyazaki's film Princess Mononoke - and underdog Disney princesses. Recent single Dragons was inspired by Game Of Thrones, and she sings and raps about HTML coding, binary coding, porn and privacy.
"The world is going to come to a place where we're all being spied on and nothing is private," she insists. "I love that storytelling aspect in Princess Nokia. She's this little anime girl from Harlem 2050."