This ain’t your average rapper out of Chicago.
In recent years, Chicago has delivered some of hip-hop’s best voices with Chance the Rapper, Vic Mensa, and Mick Jenkins. However, among all of Chicago’s braggadocio wordsmiths lies Noname — half spoken word poet, half conscious rapper extraordinaire. After taking center stage on Chance’s Coloring Book highlight “Finish Line/Drown,” she released her debut mixtape Telefone in 2016. A dizzying display of epiphanies and witticisms, Telefone put Noname on the map as an introspective musician whose songs sound like a mix of late-night philosophical musings and potent perspectives.
Now, on her sophomore album Room 25, Noname has expanded her sound and artistry that outshines many of her contemporaries. “Maybe this the album you listen to in your car / When you driving home late at night / Really questioning every god, religion, Kanye, bitches,” boasts Noname on album opener “Self.” The track’s a meditation on success, the future, and politics. The actual sounds from the album are dreamlike — they provide the foundation for Noname’s rhymes as they seemingly float through the subconscious.
Room 25 is also Noname’s most political album to date. On the album, she takes note of gentrification, the police killing of Philando Castile, the fetishtization of violence by the media, and our current political hellscape. Though despite packing some heavy-hitters, Noname leaves room for humor and light-hearted quips like “my pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism” on opener “Self”, or that popular rappers “sound like they wearing adult diapers” on standout track “Ace.” It’s an album that thrives on Noname’s capacity for turns of phrase and mind-numbing introspection. Bringing along fellow up-and-comers Saba, Ravyn Lenae, and Smino, Room 25 is filled to the brim with subtle, yet intricate melodies and instrumentals that give Noname’s lyrics a certain resonance and potency that sticks.
“Sometimes I’m like, ‘Ugh, I’m being too honest, maybe some things I should hold on to.’ It’s just, like, very autobiographical, but there’s also a bit of me playing around because I’m finally able to dance around with the idea of being vulgar in that way,” said Noname, speaking to The Fader. Out of all the albums released in 2018, Room 25 articulates those existential quandaries found at 1 a.m. to life in a way that feels both deeply personal and original. Though she rhymes about her newfound fame, there’s still an honesty about the realities of being a broke indie rapper. Now miles ahead of her debut Telefone, Room 25 is here to inspire and inquire with wit, insight, and groove.
Noname will be performing in Atlanta on October 13 & 14 at Afropunk’s Carnival of Consciousness with N.E.R.D., Kaytranada, The Internet, Pusha-T, Death Grips, and more. For more information, visit www.afropunkfest.com/atlanta