Princess Nokia screams confidence. Sometimes, she is literally screaming, like in her track “Tomboy,” where she asserts that “With my little titties and my phat belly / I could take your man if he finna let me.” But usually, Princess Nokia’s confidence reveals itself in less overt ways. She fills her music with blaring bass notes and aggressive rap that unapologetically dominates whatever room it’s being played in. The warbling swagger of her voice exudes fearlessness and embraces strangeness. Her music does not passively wait to be heard. It is a force that demands its presence be felt.
Destiny Frasqueri, the woman behind the Princess Nokia project, adopted the royal moniker to free herself from any limiting labels that could distort her artistic expression. “I’m making worldly music — music that will talk to all kinds of people,” she said in an interview with Bullett. “Banjee girls in Harlem, teen brides in the Middle East, gay boys in East Asia. Labels no longer matter. My new music is cosmic and three-dimensional, and it will really speak of who Princess Nokia is. Princess Nokia is sound. It is progression. It is all that I am.”
Despite this commitment to a “worldly” sound, glimpses of Frasqueri’s personal identity appear throughout her work. Her most recent album, 1992, acts as a love letter to the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where she was raised. Songs from her mixtape Metallic Butterfly proudly reference her Puerto Rican and Taino heritage, even embedding Spanish words and Caribbean mythology into lyrics. And pervading across all of Frasqueri’s music is an overarching theme of feminism, based on her own background supporting other women. In an interview with Impose, Frasqueri explains, “That’s my experience with feminism — counteracting misogyny, counteracting the tragedy that’s been put against me in my life and using my female counterparts as my support system.” Ultimately, as a woman, as a Puerto Rican descendant living in New York, and now as Princess Nokia, Frasqueri makes music that is defined by her individual identity, but belongs to everyone.
With S4NtA_Mu3rTE and Chauncey_CC at 9 p.m., Friday, July 21, at Mezzanine. $15-$25; mezzaninesf.com
As is the case with many fascinating relationships, the formation of Blonde Redhead began with a chance encounter in New York City. In 1993, Kazu Makino and twins Amadeo and Simone Pace met in an Italian restaurant and connected instantly. At the time, Makino was studying art and had no intention of pursuing a music career, and the two brothers had moved to the United States from Italy to study jazz. But the three soon christened themselves Blonde Redhead — after a DNA song — and have been making music ever since.
Given that Blonde Redhead has been releasing music since 1995, their musical style has changed as the band itself has evolved and grown. Indeed, while it conveys the same feelings of fierce unhappiness and disappointment that have always been present in their discography, recent albums express this emotionality in a more refined, thoughtful manner. Whereas songs from their earlier albums such as “Astro Boy” and “I Am There While You Choke On Me” use raw screaming and thrashing drums to heighten their zeal, Blonde Redhead’s newer tracks filter such passion through more subdued vocals and gentle string instrumentation. This shift toward the dreamy and soothing comes in full force with the band’s most recent EP, 3 O’clock. If their earlier works capture unadulterated, enraged despair, 3 O’clock represents the calm after the emotional storm, the nuanced reflection after the raucous breakdown.
As drummer Simone Pace said in an interview with All Music, “Some people say, ‘I’ve been doing this for so long, for 20 years, trust me,’ and to me, that’s the wrong attitude, at least for our band. We’re always starting from a place where you feel like you can challenge yourself.” Blonde Redhead’s evolution is not a sign of tired aimlessness, but rather a surge in creative progression, an indicator of how much farther they have to move forward and flourish.
With Porcelain Raft at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 22, at the Regency Ballroom. $30-$35; theregencyballroom.com
The electronic dance genre is an unstoppable force. One can scarcely turn on the radio without hearing the latest flashy hook and beat-drop by The Chainsmokers or Calvin Harris or whoever else has recently gotten their hands on a DJ mixing system. Furthermore, music technically outside the EDM genre is noticeably influenced by the electropop craze, with dancey, Kygo-esque melodies supplementing everything from Justin Bieber’s ballads to Drake’s brooding rap.
Given EDM’s vast pervasiveness, it is becoming increasingly difficult to stand out among the crowd, to separate the innovative from the glitzy yet uninspired. Dom Dolla, a DJ from Melbourne, is part of the former category. The producer of lively singles such as “Be Randy” and “Define,” Dom lays down groovy rhythmic tracks that are infectiously energetic without being vapid.
Dom composes fun dance music that lingers in the brain long after leaving the club, and “You,” one of his most popular singles on SoundCloud, best exemplifies this skill. In an interview with Happy magazine, Dom explained that “You” is “based on the mental rumination some people go through when they’re stuck in a toxic relationship, when they don’t have the strength to get out of it, although they know it’s over. Quite a negative topic for a club environment, I suppose, but a lot of people seem to be connecting with it.” Contrasting uptempo beats intended for densely packed parties with a message of loneliness, Dom lends a certain emotional weight to his music, even as his songs hype up listeners for a wild night out.
With Ryan Lucero and Luke Frisher at 10 p.m., Friday, July 21, at Halcyon. $5-$20; halcyon-sf.com