Noname Opens The Door For A Female-Focused Coming-Of-Age Story In Hip-Hop With ‘Room 25’

Hip-Hop Editor
09.17.18

Noname / Uproxx Studios

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It’s ironic that Noname (aka Fatimah Warner) says she makes “lullaby rap music,” because despite the gauzy, dreamlike flow state from which she pens her intricately crocheted verses and the drowsy, tranquilizing instrumentation that quilts her whisper-soft delivery, her music consists of the sort of dense, almost inscrutable storytelling and candidness that could keep the listener up all night trying to decrypt it.

“Put a thinkpiece in the rap song, the new age covenant,” she lilts on “Blaxploitation” from her latest album, Room 25, a flex that doubles as a thesis that triples as a teasing challenge. “Decipher my meaning,” she seems to tease. Multiple levels of understanding lurk beneath every mischievous turn of phrase, daring the listener to run that back, again, again, and again, until they think they might be beginning to grasp at a double meaning and wondering if they ever actually will at the same time. With her previous album, Telefone and now, with Room 25, Noname isn’t just writing lullabies, she’s dictating the future of rap, unraveling the rules of the genre to weave into an entirely new form only she could dream up.

The Chicago rapper’s style is both familiar and inviting to fans of her hometown comrades Chance The Rapper and Saba, yet enticingly unique in that it embraces the spoken-word, poetic delivery that Chance and Saba’s wordplay only hints at. Their shared origin in the poetry workshops of Chicago’s Youmedia labs network gives them common DNA, but where Noname’s male counterparts eventually aligned themselves with the common structures of relatively straightforward if heady rap, she allows herself to drift further afield. There’s more landscape on poetry’s side of the fences, and Noname freely frolics in the wider spaces afforded by the more open format, rhyming as much to melodies as she does to the lush, lively, and fully-realized beats provided by her backing band, led by longtime producer and multi-instrumentalist Phoelix, who was also largely responsible for the sonics on Telefone.

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