Slightly over a 12 months in the past, I noticed Noname completely kill her set at a summer season music pageant. Her band was tight, presence charming, and reception surprisingly heat from an viewers who did not appear all that acquainted with her. Later that day, Nas carried out. As most the group rapped alongside to “NY State Mind,” I started to overhear a very enthusiastic recitation the hook instantly behind me. I circled, and was face-to-face with Noname and her total four-piece band, performing like regular-ass individuals at a pageant, dancing and signing and smiling. This wasn’t the primary artist I would seen depart the consolation backstage to mingle with the widespread people at a pageant— two that stand out f high are Danny Brown strolling round and dapping up anybody that approached him, and John C. Reilly watching an indie rock set from a distance— however moderately the primary who may’ve handed in your common, trendy mid-twenties General Admission ticketholder. Onstage and f, Noname appeared simply as excited to be there as anybody else.
Two full-lengths into her profession as a rapper, Noname’s energy is mixing this approachable, low-key, everywoman vibe with blistering expertise. She’s hailed as a “savior,” a “actual lyricist” antidote to vapid content material in rap by some followers, however that is 100% editorializing on their half. As her identify suggests, Noname’s music is egoless, her superiority complicated nonexistent regardless of her spellbinding skills. As she put it in a current Fader prile, “Lots my followers… I feel they like me as a result of they assume I’m the anti-Cardi B. I’m not. I’m simply Fatimah.”
In that case, Fatimah Warner, Noname’s given identify] is “simply” a poet-turned-rapper who makes good, relatable, beloved music. Her debut, 2016’s Telefone, acquired heat approval for its empathy and lushness, and situated the 25-year-old because the Chicago youth-poetry-fed rap scene’s subsequent huge factor, following the success buddies and frequent collaborators Chance The Rapper, Saba, Mick Jenkins, and many others. In the 2 years since, Noname’s moved to L.A., toured relentlessly, misplaced her virginity, and stayed impartial. All that exhibits on the transitional, well-oiled, sensual, and uncompromising follow-up, Room 25.
Less hooky and segmented than Telefone, Noname’s sophomore effort manages to sound sweeping and expansive whereas clocking in at solely 35 minutes. A superb deal that has to do with Phoelix, the Chicago rapper/producer who did the lion’s share manufacturing work on Telefone however assumed full govt duties on Room 25. His model is suave and constant all through, his psychedelic, jazzy dwell instrumentation offering the right match for Noname’s muted vocal supply and permitting for a seamless listening expertise. Also fattening up the music is an t-present string part, bankrolled by Noname herself, which lends to the album’s cinematic vibe.
Home to Hollywood fame whoring, Beverly Hills fakeness, and Calabasas opulence, L.A. performs a giant position on this album. On one hand, its championing the person permits Noname to embrace herself extra, focusing much less on the demons her previous and extra on discovering herself. On the opposite, the town yields lyrics about cosmetic surgery, intercourse, prescribed drugs, and self-involvement. “L.A. be vibrant however nonetheless a darkish metropolis,” Noname raps on “Prayer Song, “So come get your comfortable and your new titties.” She brings up the facets her new house that conflict together with her down-to-earth persona, however in finding these, she appears to higher outline who she really is. Sometimes it’s a must to depart house to seek out your self, and on her addition to the continuum “shifting to L.A.” albums, Noname appears extra snug in her personal pores and skin.
A significant half that’s the sexual awakening she’s undergone since Telefone, which she additionally mentioned within the Fader prile. “Maybe this undertaking will present some these individuals who assume that I’m this very, like, acutely aware feminine rapper that I’m simply as common and regular as everyone,” she mentioned. Sure sufficient, she winks concerning the alleged distance between her squeaky-clean picture and newfound horniness all all through the album. “Yes and sure, I am problematic too,” she raps instantly after squeezing “freedom” and “suckin’ dick within the new Adidas” into the identical line. Most direct and putting in its weighing sexuality towards misogyny is opener “Self,” on which Noname acknowledges the drained “cash and pussy” cliché pushed by many male rappers whereas additionally boasting that her pussy “teaches ninth-grade English” and “wrote an essay on colonialism.” You can have it each methods.
While taking extra time to really feel herself than she did on Telefone, which featured selfless songs about useless buddies (“Casket Pretty”) and abortion (Bye Bye Baby”), Noname would not lose her far-reaching essential deal with Room 25. “Blaxploitation” actually is, as she places it, “a thinkpiece in a rap tune,” protecting an unbelievable quantity floor concerning the African American expertise in simply over two minutes. The following observe, “Prayer Song,” presents a extra sensible imagining the American Dream— one the place weight problems, coronary heart illness, and “darkness lingering] within the wake slavery” are simply as American as apple pie. Add these to the aforementioned exploration L.A.’s character, in addition to Noname’s ever-present meditations on mortality, and these 35 minutes virtually definitely have extra happening lyrically than your favourite rapper’s longest album.
With Room 25, Noname firmly establishes herself as one the most effective rappers alive. She’s in a position to pack total worlds thought-provoking content material into temporary songs that demand repeat listens to totally grasp, all whereas by no means distracting from the luxurious music she favors and seeming like an “Aw, shucks” Average Jane. Sometimes, you need to faucet her on the shoulder and say, ‘You do know you possibly can conquer the world with this expertise, proper?’ But the truth that she raps circles round Eminem and J. Cole whereas barely elevating her voice above a whisper is precisely why Noname is nice.