It's a harrowing time to be young and brown in America. Our blood is spilt and our bodies are sacrificed often before we even get a chance to know the world or ourselves. And even when we survive adolescence with our bodies intact, our minds are left battered by the psychological war that's been waged against us. Artists of color deal with this bullshit in different ways. Some veer into unrepentant angst, some escape the pain through excess... But for Destiny, there's beauty and hope in the struggle and she expresses that bright optimism in the face adversity all over her new album, Honeysuckle.
Fittingly, the record reaches back to the late 60s and 70s—another time of social upheaval—for inspiration. With a varied genre palette of disco, blues, folk, and soul, Destiny explores the plight of people of color in the 12-bar album closer "Brown Girl Blues" and lifts up her sisters with what KRS-One would call "confidence sandwiches" in the braggadocios "Sugarplum." Altogether, the album is a feminist, socially conscious, sonically adventurous, and extremely confident effort.
It's also a new direction for an artist we've always had a hard time pinning down. We first met Destiny Nicole Frasqueri back in 2013, when she went by the name Wavy Spice and had just released the anti-social banger "Versace Hottie." But just as quick as the blogs and fashion magazines started to take notice, she switched gears and became Princess Nokia. It was under that name that she released her breakout, afro-futurist album, Metallic Butterfly, last year.
In a phone conversation I had with Destiny last week, I asked her why she had decided to change her name again and ditch the techno-terrorist aesthetic for a new Soul Train-inspired look and sound. For her, the answer was pretty simple: She grew up.
"I tried to make a Metallic Butterfly part two, but it just didn't feel representative of my life. I was speaking at Harvard and touring around the country. I had become a grown woman and a professional musician... I had surpassed all the things in my life they said I couldn't."
"[Honeysuckle sounds] like who I am as a woman. I am still a young girl, but this is my coming of age. I feel very independent and full of attitude and I sure as hell have a lot of things to say."
Honeysuckle carries the same DNA as her previous records (including production from frequent collaborator, OWWWLS), but it definitely reflects the evolution of an artist who's found her own voice—one that can be sweet, alluring, or defiant at a whim. Of course, she's not Beyonce. But why would she even want to be when she can be Destiny? As she told me over the phone, "I am not the best singer in the world—but this is about art and what art truly is, is when you can make your disabilities beautiful."
She's definitely accomplished that with Honeysuckle. But the music isn't the only thing that is beautiful, her message is, too. We're living in a time when young black and brown people have to remind those in power that their lives actually matter. Although we have to continue to fight those battles, Destiny's songs go at length to impart feelings of fun and good times with the hope that we don't forfeit our happiness when we face off against oppression.
"As a people, we have to challenge ourselves to escape the negativity. We can't succumb to the darkness. I'm trying to push the boundaries of spreading peace and love and positive ideas."
Download the album here.
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