Rapper Destiny Frasqueri, known better by her stage name Princess Nokia, recently delighted fans with a re-release of her 2014 album, Metallic Butterfly (Remastered & Expanded). This highly ambitious first album is brought back to life in higher quality and complete with three new tracks, “Anomaly,” “Versace Hottie,” and “Earth Is My Playground,” which were all written at the time of the album’s conception. Metallic Butterfly is a smorgasbord of different musical styles that is electrifyingly original, displaying not only Nokia’s musical talent, but also an introduction into her personality and values.
The album opens with “Dimensia” where Nokia tells the listener in a clear, robotic voice, “Welcome to Metallic Butterfly, where you are now free. On this planet you are now released of all plague, hate, and disease.” This track is reminiscent of the spoken introductions in SZA’s “Ctrl,” a prelude that describes the themes of the music to come. She says, “You are now one with yourself and the master creator. It is time that you utilize your greatest potential before it is taken from you forever.” This first track makes the album feel more like one cohesive art piece with an overarching theme rather than a collection of separate songs.
In one word, the album is eclectic. It features a number of genres such as trip hop, R&B, jungle, grime, and even Afro-Caribbean Canto in “Bikini Weather/Corazon in Africa.” Throughout the album, Nokia plays with many different voice filters, interesting beats, and sound effects. She sings like an angel in “Hands up,” spits bars in her thick New York accent in “Versace Hottie,” and chants in Spanish in “Bikini Weather/Corazon in Africa.” Nokia is quite the musical chameleon, however, this variety sometimes comes off as scattered.
Though somewhat unrefined, Nokia’s enormous talent and creativity is evident in Metallic Butterfly. The slew of different genres and noises that she experiments with make the songs sound busy, and sometimes dissonant, creating a feeling of unease. As is often the case with fledgling artists, it seems that Nokia hasn’t quite grasped what makes some of her songs good, and others terrible. Nevertheless, her originality and ingenuity is very refreshing. It was bold, especially as a first release from a previously unknown artist.
She’s a strong supporter of intersectional feminism, as can be seen in both her songs and media persona. In “Young girls,” she appreciates the tremendous weight put onto women at an early age. She says, “young girls, patrons of the earth, young girls, they need they own respect, young girls, carry babies from they neck.” In “Seraphims,” she sings, “I am a woman I do not break I bend,” stressing the resilience of females in a male dominated world. In her music videos she makes a point to break away from traditional gender roles, depicting female body hair, cross dressing, and women playing video games and sports. Along with the re-release of Metallic Butterfly, fans can get even more of a window into her life by reading a letter that she wrote back in 2014.
Nokia’s label, Rough Trade Records, published a touching letter that she wrote to herself on the day of her first album’s original release, which she dubs “Butterfly Day.” She writes, “It took me a long time to get to where I am, but I am here and it is everywhere I want to be, … A place where both my artistic merit and hard work meet. A day where I can say, ‘Yeah, I’m a musician. A good one.’” Metallic Butterfly is a bold album that deserves as much recognition now as it did in 2014.