Princess Nokia brings New York rap to annual WHUS concert

Princess Nokia arrives at the TIDAL X: Brooklyn 3rd annual Benefit Concert at Barclays Center on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Princess Nokia arrives at the TIDAL X: Brooklyn 3rd annual Benefit Concert at Barclays Center on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in New York. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Bone-quivering bass shook the University of Connecticut Student Union ballroom Sunday night when Princess Nokia took the stage for WHUS Radio’s annual Mischief After Dark fall concert.

The Bronx-based rapper kicked off her performance nearly an hour late, but brought an unmistakable energy with her opening hit “Tomboy.” Though the crowd had thinned slightly, about 150 students—some in Halloween costumes—danced and sang along to the track’s infectious refrain.

“Don’t you f*ck with my energy,” Princess Nokia chanted during the song “Brujas” as she swaggered around the stage in bright pink pants and a loud checkered shirt while students reached their hands out in hopes of getting a high-five.

It’s good WHUS distributed ear plugs prior to the show, because the sound system was truly ground-shaking. Light fixtures and trophy cases outside the ballroom threatened to vibrate off the walls every time the kick drum hit. WHUS General Manager Kailey Townsend said the station decided to outsource audio production because they didn’t have much experience setting up rap shows.

“Our old sound guy graduated,” she said. “Our new one has no problem micing amps and stuff for an indie band, but with rap it’s different.”

The decision certainly paid off, as the vocals came through surprisingly crisp despite the ballroom’s echoey cavernous nature.

As the crowd waited for Princess Nokia to arrive, 20-year-old Florida rapper Chester Watson gave an impressive, if somewhat rambling, 90-minute performance.

Mixing a lyrical flow in the style of Earl Sweatshirt with woozy, psychedelic beats, Watson held his own in the face of an increasingly impatient crowd.

A prototypical “SoundCloud rapper” with hair like The Weeknd, two designer fanny packs and a self-confessed penchant for anime, Watson would sometimes spend a few minutes looking through beats on his phone, playing each one for a few seconds before saying “nah” and skipping to the next.

“Hang on,” he said once after starting a song from his computer. “I got a different version of it on my phone and it’s got bass and sh*t.”

But when he did decide on a beat, Watson wowed the audience with witty lyrics and off-kilter instrumentation.

Reed Brucher, a fifth-semester psychology major said he enjoyed Watson’s performance.

“Chester Watson is like a modern classic,” he said. “He was so good.”

JuS BeatZ, a hip-hop collective of UConn students packed the stage as the opening act.

Townsend said a rap concert was a new and welcome change for WHUS, whose concerts usually feature traditional indie rock bands.

“We’re trying to bring more diversity,” Townsend said. “We tried to narrow it down to who were the best rappers that were still indie.”


Charlie Smart is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via charles.smart@uconn.edu.