Princess Nokia’s “A Girl Cried Red” was, to many, a surprise of a mixtape in its emo nostalgia. “Your Eyes Are Bleeding” seamlessly blends hip-hop elements with a teenage pop-punk aesthetic. While this mixtape is a very drastic shift from Nokia’s brujería feminist, rap heavy debut album 1992, Nokia has long been a cultivator and advocate for people of color’s involvement in punk, anime, video game and emo culture through her social media presence. The aesthetic of the video for “Your Eyes Are Bleeding” takes me back to my middle school days of fingerless gloves and knee-high converse. Despite emo culture being predominately thought of as a white subculture, most of the emo kids in my middle- and high-schools were people of color, queer or considered “other” to society in a larger context.
After watching Nokia’s “A Girl Cried Red” music video, I asked my best friend at the time, Kim Lopez, about her thoughts on the connection she had as a Latinx woman in a largely white public school system to the emo/hardcore scene she was a part of. I met Kim in the 6th grade, where we both bonded over our love of emo staples such as Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas and the anime Soul Eater. As brown tweens, she said both of us accessing this scene “was like us telling the world that we knew we were different and it was us willingly separating ourselves.” We both went to middle- and high-schools that were predominately dominated by white students from wealthy socioeconomic backgrounds. Without acknowledging these implications, we bonded as emo kids. However, after a couple years we left this scene and delved more into hip-hop. Kim decided to leave the scene because “in screamo/post-hardcore I didn’t see any representation and I didn’t see the lyrics talk about anything that I felt was specifically just for me, which is why I gravitated towards hip hop afterwards. I think we just got tired of trying to force ourselves into this space that is supposedly for people who are misunderstood.”
Princess Nokia’s mixtape is a perfect marriage of our sentiments on the way in which we accessed emo culture as brown women, and the importance hip-hop held in our later teenage years. It has the elements of the overt emotional rampage of “other-ness” that exists within emo culture, which sound even louder through Nokia’s position as someone from the afro-Latinx community. While 2008-era emo culture is relatively dead, Nokia’s nostalgic throwback dredges up a reclamation of a scene largely represented by white guys in skinny jeans.
Starved in metropolis…
Hooked on necropolis…
Addict of metropolis…
Do the worm on the acropolis
Slamdance the cosmopolis
Enlighten the populace….
“Ghetto Defendant” is one of those songs that will never tire me. I’ve listened to it religiously for months, always finding something new in the lyrics and the way in which the different speakers’ words interact with one another. That pleasing, old poet voice rhythmically purring is none other than Allen Ginsberg reciting lyrics he wrote for the song, communicating “the voice of God.” Take a listen:
Breaking the silence
Of an ancient pond,
A frog jumped into water-
A deep resonance.
-Matsuo Basho, The Narrow Road to the Deep North
Daniel R. Robinson was an acoustic guitarist who changed his name to Robbie Basho in honor of the Japanese poet Matsuo Basho. Like Matsuo Basho’s poetry, Robbie Basho’s music captures a beauty and calmness deeply rooted in the natural world. In Robbie Basho’s rendition of Debussy’s piano solo “Clair de Lune,” Basho’s guitar echoes the effects a piano’s sustaining pedal would produce in a typical performance of the song while adding a rugged folksiness and energy to the piece. Take a listen:
Happy Halloween! Here’s a witchy playlist I’ve put together for the occasion:
Journey In Satchidananda by Alice Coltrane
- Alice Coltrane is a powerhouse of an individual: a fantastic multi-instrumentalist, swami, and wife to none other than John Coltrane. “Journey In Satchidananda” is witchy in the most beautiful and spiritual ways.
Brujas by Princess Nokia
- My favorite off of her excellent album 1992, “Brujas” is an ode to the rapper’s Yoruban ancestry and the power of brujería.
Heart of Chambers by Beach House
- In Beach House’s autumnal ballad “Heart of Chambers,” vocalist Victoria Legrand croons of intense longing, conjuring spirits to make her lover smile.
Black Moon Spell by King Tuff
- King Tuff’s “Black Moon Spell” is a whole lot of fun and angst.
I Put A Spell On You by Nina Simone
- The most bewitching out of all the songs on this playlist, Nina Simone’s “I Put A Spell On You” is haunting in the intense emotionalism Simone imbues in the lyrics.
Run To Your Mama by Goat
- Goat is a mysterious band. They perform in masks and claim to come from Korpilombolo, Sweden, a town that has a history of voodoo worship. “Run To Your Mama” is a catchy garage rock jam with diverse influences and a sinister edge to it.
The Killing Moon by Echo & The Bunnymen
- When will this song ever not be on a Halloween playlist though??
White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane
- One of Jefferson Airplaine’s best, this song is spooky psychedelia straight outta Alice In Wonderland.
Strange Magic by Electric Light Orchestra
- I wanted to end this playlist on a less spooky note and go with this classic by Electric Light Orchestra. “Strange Magic” never fails to make me feel warm n fuzzy :’)
Enjoy, and have a safe, witchy Halloween!!!
October is a nocturnal month where the stars are illuminated, always putting me in an astrological mood. So far my October has consisted of nightly readings of the book Sextrology with friends, which I HIGHLY recommend if you have astrological inclinations. Pharoah Sander’s “Moon Child” has been an obvious go-to song during these rituals. It’s a cosmic tune perfect for a witchy, mystical October.
I’ve been a huge fan of the Byrds ever since my idealistic high school days, which is why I’ve been kicking myself for not listening to Gene Clark’s masterpiece of an album No Other until a few days ago. Since then I’ve been playing the album on repeat, and the grandiose sounds permeate the mundanity of my days with a brilliance I haven’t felt since first hearing the Dead’s American Beauty. “Life’s Greatest Fool” kicks off the album with Clark’s country croon, jangly guitars, a lofty choir. The upbeat tune moves you to perceive your surroundings with rose-tinted glasses, engendering a need for sun soaked road trips while this song blares in the background.
At a first listen, the grandiosity of the production can feel overdone, the lyrics pretentious in their sweeping statements; however, Clark’s delivery subdues the whole thing. He doesn’t give us a concrete perspective on life. He admits that “words can be empty though filled with sound/Stoned numb and drifting, hard to be profound.” And despite this the lyrics are rife with profundity in humbling ways. It’s a song full of questioning, Clark’s unique outlook bundled in the guise of genuine curiosity, open ended and unsure.
Surreal electrifying energy. “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine” is a hypnotic track on Electric Music for the Mind and Body, an album full of psychedelic strangeness. I cannot get over the seamless switches from bluesy garage rock to soaring, euphoric organ that pervade the song. Take a listen.
My friend from KALX Berkeley impulsively took a bus to Colorado Springs, surprising me on this stressful start to the fourth week. We’ve spent most of the day sitting on my couch showing each other songs we’ve been into lately. Aside from the classic “Caught In A Butt Sandwich” by The Mangfather Bob Katz, the best song she showed me happened to be by a kickass multiracial artist named Kohinoorgasm. Kohinoorgasm is a bay area artist that used to DJ at KALX, now working as a solo artist. She strives to empower people of color through her music. The music video of “Azaadi Is Freedom Is Fate” has an evident motif of hair, which Kohinoorgasm notes as a “distinct issue for femmes of color.” The song itself is an exploration of the concept of freedom, Azaadi meaning freedom in multiple levels. As a multiracial woman who identifies strongly with my Indian culture, I find Kohinoorgasm to be an empowering presence in the DIY music scene.
Vashti Bunyan is for slow, cold Sundays like today. “I’d Like To Walk Around In Your Mind” moves in that strange flow of time that occurs this moment in the week. Vashti’s tender voice and introspective lyrics are reminiscent of lonely, reflective Sunday thoughts, but leave you warmed by the fuzzy psych-folk instrumentals that wash over them.
It’s been easy to feel powerless as I hear about friends and family who have already faced racially fueled harassment as consequence to this election. As a person of color processing events that have transpired these past few days, music has been a necessary tool in reaffirming my worth and power. “Alright” is an anthem of persistence and revolt, and Kendrick’s words are a source of reassurance and solidarity in a time that feels hopeless to many.