Noname, a 27 year old rapper from Bronzeville Chicago, released her debut album, Room 25, this past month. If her previously released EP Telefone represented the ravings of a young, carefree girl, Room 25 is the maturation of that girl into one of the premier hip-hop renegades of this generation. Her voice floats through headphones, softly delivering lyrics that are playfully impactful. Her self-described “lullaby rap music” contains dry, dark wit concealed in childishly light melodies. She implores us to not only listen but dissect the hidden intricacies of her work beneath the syncopated rhythm and jazz chords.
“Blaxploitation” is probably the most politically relevant and artistically complex song on the eleven track album. Sampling a monologue from Dolemite, Noname interweaves socially relevant dialogue from the Blaxploitation genre and refocuses it to 21st century United States. She plays with the eclectic rhythm of the song, adding polysyllabic lyrics that address stereotypes, systematic racism, and hate in delicate lines of rap. Through the scattered, frantic rhythm, Noname conveys the conflicts between her own world and the one around her. “Blaxploitation” is a funky, weird song to listen to at first, but after two or three listens, the song becomes familiarly beautiful.
“No name” is my favourite track on the album. The instrumental aspect of the song carries on for about two of the four minutes. When she finally begins her rapping, it is soft, melodic, and delicate. “No name” is the story of black neighborhoods and how her art is for those who think they are alone. Eloquently starting with “No name for people to call small or colonize optimism/
No name for inmate registries that they put me in prison”. She raps of not forgetting her home, of knowing where she came from and telling the world of her Chicago neighborhood. She uses her experiences to connect to an audience that feels forgotten, and ends the album with the lyrics “Your life, you life, is your life, baby/ Don't let it pass you by/ Don't let it pass you by”.
Noname presents in her debut album a maturely and delicately crafted sound. Whether it be the lyrics or the harmonious singing, she paints a picture of who she is and shows the world how she is uniquely relevant in our ever-changing world. She is at her essence a lyricist, giving a voice to the marginalized through her lullaby rapping. Room 25 is a complex statement on our society told through an autobiography of the twenty-seven year old’s life. I encourage you to listen to her soberingly beautiful album this month.