Princess Nokia’s performance at the ’Sco on April 8 was supposed to be one of the biggest shows of the year. Students planning on attending the New York rapper’s concert, however, were in for an unfortunate surprise: Destiny Frasqueri, known by her stage name Princess Nokia, missed the show due to travel complications that arose the day before her scheduled appearance.
“The cancellation was due to flight delays the day before from LaGuardia and Delta [Airlines] having major issues,” Bojan Jovanovic, Frasqueri’s agent, wrote in an email to the Review. “It was difficult to find a new flight but we plan on rescheduling and coming back to Oberlin in the future.”
This marks the second time that Frasqueri has canceled an Oberlin appearance due to flight complications. The first time occurred in the spring of 2016, when she was scheduled to perform at the Cat in the Cream.
Many students were skeptical about the stated reason for Frasqueri’s cancelation. This skepticism was generated in part from posts on her Instagram account, which included carefree images and videos of the artist enjoying herself in New York City while Oberlin organizers attempted to reschedule her flight.
“That’s what everyone was talking about,” said Sky Davis, College junior and Cat in the Cream booker. “The day of [the concert], all throughout her Instagram there were pictures of her dancing around all over [Central] Park and having fun the whole day. We were like, ‘Why aren’t you here?’”
Frasqueri was also scheduled to perform at Kenyon College’s Horn Gallery on Friday, April 7, the day she was slated to arrive in Columbus, but canceled that appearance as well. College junior Rayna Holmes and Anya Schulman, the booker for the Kenyon venue, were involved in coordinating the rapper’s travel plans, including the trip from Kenyon in Gambier, Ohio, to Oberlin. Both bookers had expressed concern over the predicted snowstorms, which they feared would impact those plans.
“All of Thursday night and into Friday morning, [Anya and I] are going back and forth about weather and if the flight is getting canceled,” Holmes said. “We’re constantly checking our phones about whether or not the flight is being delayed, [or] whether or not the flights beforehand are getting canceled. We hit 11 a.m. on Friday, and we’re like, ‘OK, the flight only got delayed 20 minutes.’ We both de-stressed for five seconds, then Anya informed me that Destiny was not on the flight.”
Holmes subsequently scrambled to find alternative flights for Frasqueri, but was met with less cooperation than she would have anticipated.
“I was in my boss [Sean Lehlbach’s] office for the rest of Friday afternoon trying to get Destiny on another flight to Cleveland, Columbus, Akron, Detroit, anywhere. We would try to make it happen,” Holmes said. “Sean and I were looking at all the airlines, refreshing the page every 20 minutes, looking at reasonably priced flights, and sending them to her agent.”
There was apparently a communication breakdown during this process, however, between Holmes, Frasqueri and Frasqueri’s agent.
“It felt like there wasn’t as much communication as there could have been,” Holmes said. “I personally feel that there was a way to salvage the situation and get her onto another flight. I know that at the airport, Destiny asked if she could fly standby, but all the flights were booked, and flights the rest of those days were booked because of the cancellations on Thursday. Things were not on our side in terms of trying to salvage [the show], and the communication between the agent and myself, and Destiny and her agent … was not how I would [have hoped it would be] in light of that crisis.”
Holmes also mentioned that communication between her and Frasqueri’s agent seemed to slow down at the end of the business day, which puzzled her.
“I’m not sure I would slow communication in that way if I wanted to make something happen,” she said. “Some people believe that this happened because people don’t respect Oberlin as much as they used to as a definite stop on the list and a high-priority stop for colleges,” Holmes said. “Some people believe that it’s incredibly disrespectful, no matter what the true circumstances are, for this to have happened a second time.”
College sophomore Ruby Anderson reached out to Frasqueri the day of the concert via Instagram message to express her feelings about the cancellation.
“Hi Destiny – I just want to say that so many students are really disappointed that you aren’t playing in Oberlin tonight,” her message reads. “We were so upset when your flight got delayed in Spring 2016, and your show for tonight sold out in a matter of hours last week. Your music is especially important to students of color, and it can be so isolating to be a POC in Ohio. Posting videos of yourself dancing in your underwear and frolicking in Central Park adds insult to injury. You’ve let many people down.”
Frasqueri responded to Anderson via Instagram: “BEING PRINCESS NOKIA DOESN’T MAKE ME A METAHUMAN SO DO NOT TRY TO GUILT TRIP ME WHILE IM LIVING MY NORMAL LIFE OUTSIDE OF WORK. I DIDN’T MISS MY FLIGHT. THE AIR LINE AND ENTIRE NYC APIRPORT SYSTEM WAS BACKED UP WITH LINES OF PEOPLE THAT REACHED OUTSIDE IN THE SIDE WALK. I CUDNT CHECK ON TIME. I WENT HOME CASE CLOSED.”
The artist added that she felt Anderson’s calling her out on her social media posts or expecting her to censor herself in light of an admittedly unfortunate situation was inappropriate.
“I APOLOGIZE I CUDNT MAKE IT BUT ASKING ME TO TRY TO HIDE MY HAPPINESS IS A REACH,” she wrote. “It’s actually very invasive and disrespectful. BOUNDARIES.”
Regardless, many in Oberlin remain convinced the artist could have done more had the show been of real importance to her.
Though students were disappointed in Frasqueri’s absence, Holmes managed to save the show by changing the lineup at the last minute. Quay Dash, a rapper from the Bronx who was originally set to open the concert, became the headliner. College sophomore and DJ Sammie Jo opened for Quay Dash. Holmes and the Program Board also provided refunds for ticketholders.
“I still think we put on an incredible show,” Holmes said. “I’m still really happy at the turnout for the people who came to support Sammie Jo and Quay Dash. People were bummed about the changes, but it was really special to see all those people support for those performers. At the end of the day, that’s a very big part of my job, and I’m really happy to be involved with that.”
Though Frasqueri’s agent expressed interest in performing at Oberlin in the future, Davis doesn’t think it’s likely Princess Nokia will be asked to come a third time, but added that she personally thinks the artist is an “incredible person.”
“I would book her again, but this is the second time this has happened,” Davis said. “There was really no communication there. There was money already spent. [SUPC] hired Concert Sound, there were posters and tickets, so it was very inconvenient for a lot of people. It makes the Student Union not want to book people who do that.”