What y’all ain’t gonna do in 2018 is sleep on Noname.
I have followed Noname’s work since her appearance on Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap and she inspired one of my sewing adventures in the past (see them there receipts). And on Thursday night, my appreciation for her artistry grew exponentially with the release of Room 25. What follows is a biased, non-objective off the top reaction to Noname’s new album. What you are about to read are my thoughts. Just my thoughts, man – right or wrong, just what I was feeling at the time.
My favorite tracks thus far.
What an introduction. Noname is coming out swinging (“My p***y teaching ninth-grade English/
My p***y wrote a thesis on colonialism”). She did not come to play with you heaux.
Not for a light, casual listen. One must be attentive and alert for “Blaxploitation”. The bass guitar strumming gives a sense of urgency and unease that could serve as the score for a prelude to a car chase scene in a 1970’s film. The weight of Black stereotypes, appropriation, pandering and violence to the psyche (“I’m struggling to simmer down, maybe I’m an insomni-black/Bad sleep triggered by bad government”) are the subjects of Noname’s clever, rapid-fire lines.
A Bebop and funk tinged piece, the first verse covers a wide range of societal ills and systematic oppression from lack of healthcare, gentrification and codification. The second verse hones in on police brutality. In the second verse, Noname plants the listener in the perspectives of the shooter and the victim. Why would such a dark piece rise to the top? It’s lyrically masterful. It hits a nerve. You can not listen to “Prayer Song” and not be moved by the way Noname explicates gut-wrenching and poignant instances of injustice.
I am a sucker for string instrumentation and arrangements so “Window” hits. Maybe I purchased better headphones, maybe I am more attentive these days, or maybe the production has gone up a notch, but the live instrumentation seems tighter. Crispy high hats and resonating bass chords and fine violins layered throughout “Window” make it an instant fave. I’m all for songs about falling for and falling out with someone, and leaving the relationship stronger and more insightful (“Quit looking out the window, go find yourself/Come get the bag with your kinfolk, don’t doubt your wealth”). Noname transmuting heartbreak to healing y’all.
Above all, Noname is sucker-punching the sophomore album boogieman that can haunt many promising artists with well-received debut albums. Room 25 is certainly not without quips and humorous lines that were apparent on Telefone. You still get cutting lines and free-form flows that engender deep reflection and a good chuckle, but Room 25 brings in new themes around romantic relationships and growth. What remains with Noname’s growth is her ability to skillfully describe the pain and joy (throughout the album, even to the last line of the closing track – (“You are the joy in all the pain/Don’t forget from where you came”)) that make up this thing called life.
Noname is scheduled to go on tour in early 2019. For more information about Noname, Room 25 and her upcoming tour, visit www.nonamehiding.com.