By Eli Schoop, Copy Editor
[Rough Trade; 2018]
Key Tracks: “For the Night”, “Look Up Kid”
Ever since Destiny Frasqueri broke onto the New York hip-hop scene as a fresh-faced, confrontational force, her ascent has been meteoric, going from chilling at bodegas to NPR and Vice features. A Girl Cried Red is a stark departure from the cocky Princess Nokia that we know, and it’s doubtful that the transition works. The album is characterized by her influences from the mid-2000s i.e. Linkin Park and Taking Back Sunday, a strange albeit bold direction to take for a young rapper coming into her own. While Frasqueri molds herself as a free spirit, this is a corny way to do it.
“Flowers and Rope” is a clear sign that this is not the usual Nokia. The instrumental is more akin to Nelly Furtado than any sort of hip-hop, even if it has 808s on it. Lyrically, it’s a melodramatic chore. “Voices in my head, monsters under my bed / I’m alone again, I lost all my friends / Wanna play pretend? Hope this never ends”? C’mon dude, this is middle-school poetry level shit, not something we want from such a confident voice who threw soup in a racist’s face. There’s no problem with making yourself vulnerable, but dipping into maudlin territory is not the way to do it.
Even when she’s straying towards a more traditional hip-hop schematic, it ends up flat because of the trendy yet bland production. “For the Night” cooks up Lil Peep vibes, but its remedial rhymes relegate her to the same type of Snapchat schlock that Peep is a part of, along with 6ix9ine and XXXTENTACION. It’s depressing, considering Frasqueri clearly has more talent than those buffoons, but she chose to create a budget version of this boring wave instead of refining her own path, or exploring a new avenue.
There are sparks of originality and creativity on A Girl Cried Red, but they’re underbaked and flailing for any sort of focus. It’s a shame because something like “Look Up Kid”’s pop-punk would suit her beautifully and hone on an interesting niche we didn’t know she had. Instead, there’s not enough here to be inspiring. Let’s hope that Princess Nokia comes back to the braggadocious nature that she made look easy, instead of whatever the hell this is.