by Leo Sipowicz
I'm that Black a-Rican bruja straight out from the Yoruba
Destiny Frasqueri, the twenty-five-year-old New York rapper who performs under the name Princess Nokia, dropped her first hip hop mixtape, titled 1992, in 2016. She followed it up in 2017 with a extended studio-recorded LP called 1992 Deluxe. 1992 has ended up being one of my top albums of 2017 and has been a refreshing change in the currently dull New York hip hop scene. The album talks about issues Destiny has experienced like racial and gender inequality, as well as having its fair share of more common hip hop topics like growing up poor and flaunting wealth on songs like ‘G.O.A.T’.
Princess Nokia combats difficult issues in her songs, but she stands out with some crazy impressive and diverse flows throughout the album. On the entire project she never settles down on on a single flow, and on pretty much each track she switches up the cadence based on the topic of the track. On the second and third tracks of the project, ‘Tomboy’ and ‘Kitana’, Princess Nokia raps in this quick, bratty, frantic voice that perfectly conveys the topic of the songs. On both of these tracks, Destiny talks about not fitting in with classic feminine stereotypes and also being confident in who she is. ‘Tomboy’ is all about owning who she is and not caring about what other people think. ‘Kitana’ is a fight song about doing what you want and not caring what other people think. The song is titled after “Kitana” a character in ‘Mortal Kombat II’ that was one of the first woman characters you could play as in a video game which reflects how Nokia feels about her impact on the music industry.
Still, 1992 Deluxe received disappointing reviews like a 6.2/10 from Pitchfork and a 77/100 from Metacritic. These reviewers mainly have beef with with the slightly generic beats and the lack of continuity throughout the album and how uncomfortable she sounds on some of the beats. While I understand some of this criticism, I still think thats what makes her sound unique and so different from almost any release this year. I also think the mixtures of beats and flows she executes on this album perfectly describe who she is as an artist, she identifies with so many different groups that I think the mix of beats and flows makes sense. This diversity is what makes the album so beautiful to me and I can't imagine her doing it any other way.
On January 5th, as the city of Denver begins to close its blinds and turn to bed, one neighborhood illuminates, una luz a la vez, and comes to life. Down graffiti-ed alleyways and up indie cafe-lined streets, the sounds of Mariachi and New Wave music mingle in the winter air as paint and canvases unfurl from every direction. Here, in a district occupying about five square blocks near Lincoln Park in Denver, is a sort of urban Venice, a blooming center for arts and culture in the Metro Area.
This metropolitan haven is called the Santa Fe Arts District, an area which extends primarily on Denver’s Santa Fe Drive between 5th and 11th avenue. The district is well-known for its concentration of more than thirty independent (and strikingly diverse) galleries and for its traditionally Latinx roots, housing cultural institutions such as the Museo de las Americas, Su Teatro Cultural and Performing Arts Center, and Colorado Ballet. Perhaps most notably, however, are its First Friday Art Walks.
Every month of every year, in sunshine and snowstorms alike, thousands of people join the hundreds of artists (who display their work in galleries, in studios, as a part of co-ops, in alleyways, on the streets, and pretty much everywhere else on the street) along Santa Fe Drive. They are joined by food trucks with offerings ranging from your typical hipster farm-to-table comfort food to traditional Venezuelan arepas to the ever-intriguing fusion of Latin and Asian cuisine.
As its popularity increases, the district has maintained is its persevering authenticity despite increasing tourist traffic. The influx of people from other places in the Metro Area is bringing consistent business and appreciation to local artists and shops, not driving them away. Small businesses and street art are left untouched by larger corporations and polished streets. And, at least to the outside observer, the Latinx foundations of this extraordinary neighborhood have continued to thrive.
The only way to truly understand the wildly expressive nature of the Santa Fe Arts District is to witness it for oneself. Nothing quite compares to walking the streets in person—so, if you’re looking for someone to join you on your camino down Santa Fe Drive, I’ll be waiting with sueños of streets colored by, well, color.
Baraka is, hands-down, one of the coolest movies I have ever seen. From the beautiful, sunny desert rocks in Utah to ruins in the jungle of Thailand to the traditions of present-day tribes in Africa, this movie has it all. It is a little over an hour-and-a-half long, and there is no talking or narration whatsoever. Although there are no words included, the movie speaks for itself. The movie is made up of nothing but short clips from multiple different countries and continents, showing the different lifestyles, religions, food, wildlife, weather, traditions, cultures, cities, landscapes, etc. Some clips are beautiful: shots overlooking huge cities in China, or high-quality drone shots flying over clouds, showing the peaks of beautiful, snow-capped mountains in Asia. Other clips are very difficult to watch: human bones piled up and leftover from Auschwitz camp in Poland, or Indian traditions including burning dead bodies by the Ganges river. Because some scenes are enjoyable to watch while others are more than difficult, the movie is very similar to life itself and parallels it in many ways. This movie made me want to travel the world so badly, even to places I never would’ve thought of as travel destinations. Ever since I first watched it, I’ve had this urge to want to explore so many new places and experience new cultures and lifestyles. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone—whether they’re seeking adventurous new experiences or simply beautiful cinematography.