“Maybe this the album you listen to in your car when you driving home late at night,” are the opening lines from “Self,” words that spoke to me after a few late night Lyft drop offs for some extra cash. While I traveled across bumpy areas of construction on the way to my apartment, the young woman who goes by Noname soothed me with easy going word play and melodic production.
“Room 25” made for a sweet ride home.
Before last week, Noname had never come across my radar. After reading an article about the upcoming, low-key poet-turned-rapper in Fader, I learned she was releasing an album last Friday, which would give me the opportunity to match the sound with a face.
Noname is not a new name to everyone. She has been running with different poets from Chicago for some time now, released the mixtape “Telefone” in 2016, and has worked with Chance the Rapper, including a feature on “Coloring Book.”
“Room 25” is the beginning of defining her own image. It starts with the album cover that looks like it came from a sketch book, the ones with random figures and a bit of color added in here and there. And at the center is an outline of Noname as she attempts to define her identity to the outside world.
That identity is infused with youth, Blackness, Chicago, America, old school, new school, poetry, womanhood, sex, history, and beauty — pretty much everything that has molded the 26 year old. Alliteration and juvenile rhymes contain real analysis of our times in songs such as “Blaxploitation” and “Part of Me.” The time in which “birthdays and funerals will only bring out the family.” She deems herself an “insomni-black” from existing in this current state of society. That’s her American reality.
“Room 25” is filled with upbeat, word savvy harmony-filled lingo. Every lighthearted line is a hard pound of reality, and every drum pattern is an arrangement of strings which is executed beautifully in “Window.”
This first album by the young woman from the south side of Chicago plays like a spoken word piece that just so happens to have jazzy, harmonic production underneath.
“Room 25” does not dance around the complex simplicity of everyday life, but choreographs it in a way that is well worth the listen.
“Everybody think they know me, don’t nobody really know me,” she sings, a reminder that in spite of sharing her life, we are only beginning to get acquainted with her style, her sound, her stories. That’s fine for now: Noname is surely on the way to creating a big name for herself.
If you obsess over singers and bands, and are one of those people who make a playlist for every occasion, join CMN’s Music Journalism Course and get real-time experience, intense feedback on your writing, exposure to music industry insiders, and a great place to display build your portfolio. Get all the details on the Music Journalism Course here.