In the 13-track LP, the part-Puerto Rican, part-African American rapper takes listeners on the journey of “Negrita in Wonderland,” a character who falls into a rabbit hole and finds herself in pre-colonized Puerto Rico. There, among the sounds of ocean waves crashing and coquís, the island’s native frog, singing, she confronts her indigenous origins, taking her on a path to decolonization.
It’s a voyage Nitty, the woman, is embarking on herself.
“This is an introduction to my journey. I’m giving a dope story to help share the narrative of the album, but for myself, it’s an ongoing process with a lot of healing involved, a lot of unlearning and rejecting things that have been imposed on us,” the 26-year-old New York-based rapper told mitú.
She says it’s also a space for others, especially Afro-Latinas, to explore along with her.
“I wanted to create a space where we belong, and also resolve some of my own complexities with identity. I wanted to address them and confront them, and my art was the best way to do that,” she said.
Like so many Afro-Latinas, Nitty was raised feeling neither black nor Latina enough. La negrita de la casa, she often heard anti-black sentiments among her Puerto Rican family. At the same time, growing up in Orlando, Fla., a city with an abundant Puerto Rican, Dominican and Colombian population, she sometimes felt inadequate for not speaking Spanish fluently.
It’s a tension she discusses on the album.
“Growing up, I was too black for the Ricans, not black enough for the blacks. Too ill for the ‘burbs, but I don’t come from the trap. I was born in the midwest, raised in the south, took it to the jungle and I made it through the drought,” she raps on “In the Water.”
The insecurity and anxiety Nitty experienced around racial identity isn’t one she believes she would have struggled with on her own. Rather, it’s the result of living in a society where a limiting black-white binary erased her mixed-race and bicultural narrative and othered both her experiences and body in a way that made her feel less human, a being no one could really explain, a “creature.”
“It’s not so much about my own acceptance or self-love, but internalizing how society responds to my existence,” she told us. “I never inherently had an issue with who I am. I loved being black and Puerto Rican. It was more about how I was being perceived, and noticing that my intersection was actually non-existent or exotic to some people.”
Throughout “Creature!,” Nitty pushes back on the way her brown skin, coiled hair and almond-shaped eyes have been exotified.
“I’m plenty blended, but don’t call me exotical. Like I was half-black and half-beautiful,” she raps in “For Sarah Baartman.”
In the line, she objects lovers, relatives and even fans who exalt her for a blackness that is foreign, one that is only deemed beautiful because it is fused with the tropics. She calls out the anti-blackness steeped in this exotification and refuses to be an alien object for the world to gawk at. The song itself references Sarah Baartman, an African woman who was taken from her land in the 19th century and exhibited as a freak show attraction across Europe because of her large derrière.
Nitty, who entered the rap game in 2010, has long used hip-hop to navigate aspects of her identity, from sexual violence survivor to mental health advocate to bruja. “Creature!,” while sonically different from her past projects, continues in this theme of music as a vehicle for negotiating identity. In the album, Nitty touches on blackness and indigeneity, bisexuality and rebellious womanhood – making room for herself in the in-between of society’s many restricting binaries.
“They made me a box and I busted out. Mad that I never really fit the plan and represent a combination they don’t want to understand,” she raps in “Mango Nectar.”
With songs tackling police violence (“Don’t Shoot”), sexual liberation (“Pxssy Powah”) and decolonization (“Mango Nectar”), Nitty delivers the album for the brown girl’s intersectional feminist movement – and she does so brilliantly and energetically. The artist doesn’t trade club rhythms for conscious writing. She proves the two can co-exist. With beats that can bump at the late-night turn-up spot, she reminds listeners that to be woke is to be lit. And she sends her message in a way that bigs up, not belittles, her listeners. It’s a conversation between friends learning and growing together, rather than a preachy emcee or movement leader. Doing so allows her to succeed in her difficult mission: creating music that is as equally dope as it is deliberate and aware.
“I am a libra, so I am the queen of balance. Everything in my life is about balance and harmony, including my presence in hip-hop,” she said. “… We don’t always have to be the extremes: ‘I’m so ignorant and don’t care about anything’ or ‘I care too much and judge you and can’t enjoy myself.’ I think I’ve found the happy medium.”
Nitty, who describes the album as a mixed girl’s liberation, hopes that black and brown women, many of whom also existing in that uncomfortable in-between space she centers throughout the project, feel represented in her songs.
“I want you to hear yourself and see yourself in this,” she said.
“Creature!” is out now. Listen and purchase the album here.