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Princess Nokia’s A Girl Cried Red was, to many, a surprise of a mixtape in its emo nostalgia. On it, the song “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 the video for “Your Eyes Are Bleeding,” I asked my friend, Kim Lopez, about her thoughts on the connection she had to the emo/hardcore scene she was a part of as a Latinx woman in a largely white public school system. 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 the 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 perfectly marries our feelings about the way in which we took part in 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.
Maya Day is a Colorado College student and a contributor to TheSOCC.org.