By Roog Kubur, June 28 2022—
Thanks to Sled Island, the streets of Calgary’s downtown were brought to life from June 22–26. On the 24th, the evening was headlined by Princess Nokia in the Palace Theatre. While she may be known for her internet memes and interesting choice of words in Genius interviews, Princess Nokia is a bonafide performer above all else. She is the personification of the word attitude, riling up the audience with poignant lyrics and fresh interpretations of her music to give the crowd something to get excited for.
The show was a sight to be reckoned with. When she stepped out with her two dancers and jumped into “Sugar Honey Iced Tea (S.H.I.T),” the room went into a frenzy. Songs that originally had a mellow instrumental were suddenly brought to life with unbridled vibrancy.
Her lyrics are inherently haughty and brash, but her performance sold the message perfectly. When she was singing lyrics like “Look at me, so clean, no effort,” the audience instantly knew she wasn’t playing around. She was, unsurprisingly, effortlessly cool and poised. The transition from spitting verses to sudden dance breaks was seamless, transforming the room from a concert to a ballroom in an instant.
As part of the spectacle, Princess Nokia wasn’t afraid to deviate from the original lyrics when she felt like it. She wove social messages into her music, shouting “My body, my choice” in songs with lyrics about body positivity. Breaks in the songs were used to give special shoutouts to Pride Month and National Indigenous People’s Day, further energizing the crowd.
The most shocking parts of the evening were definitely the several mosh pits that started. Before that night, the idea of starting a mosh pit to a Princess Nokia song was unheard of. But the moment the lyrics “Who that is, hoe? That girl is a tomboy” started blaring through the speakers, it felt only natural to get a little rowdy.
Between tracks there were overwhelming emotions resonating throughout the venue. She opened up about her Afro-Indigenous heritage and how touched she was to be on Treaty 7 territory, specifically mentioning her walk down the Bow River as a source of strength for the performance. Several times throughout the show she was choked up reflecting on how special this night was for her, making the room feel more like a community than a concert. These moments didn’t detract from the high energy of the show though, instead empowering the audience to have even more fun when the music started back up.
The music reflected the sentiments of her message. At one point, the room came to a halt while she sang an acapella version of the second song she ever recorded, “Yaya.” The song features lines from an Indigenous Puerto-Rican prayer in Taíno. This was a stark deviation from the high energy hip-hop tracks that dominated the night prior, but it added something magical to the evening. In that moment, she wasn’t a world-famous rapper, she was just a woman sharing her heritage with the audience.
The Palace Theatre was home to one of the best Sled Island shows this year. The energy brought by Princess Nokia was unmatched and the audience relished in it. She created an electrifying environment where not a single moment was wasted. If you feel like you missed out on the spectacle, rest assured her entire music catalogue can be found on Spotify, Apple Music and wherever else you stream music.