Noname's first project (Telefone EP, 2016) featured an excellent young and introverted lyricist in transition to adulthood. Two years later, there’s been a change in tone. Her new album opens with, “Y'all really thought a bitch couldn't rap huh?” More confident, a little arrogant, and always socially relevant, Noname (real name Fatimah Warner) is at the top of her game on Room 25.
The strong sex
Room 25 is not intended to be a demonstration of female power, yet it is because of its very existence. Noname’s positioning in the hip hop world is subject to the same constraints as other female rappers. Nicky Minaj and Cardi B chose predatory behavior in order to succeed. Noname preferred to shine through the ingenuity of her lyrics, like Rapsody or Little Simz.
Already praised for the quality of her texts, the young artist once again demonstrates the extent of her technical skills. An avid reader of Toni Morrison and through being raised by bookseller parents, the Chicago native comments on social and political events with humor and sarcasm. “Blaxploitation” excels in this area, criticizing the ruling class for cultural appropriation while pointing out the paradoxes of the wealthy black community in full gentrification.
Steeped in this label, Noname also breaks down barriers by crudely evoking her newly won sexuality. “If you wanna help me then kiss me and fuck me later,” she challenges on “Prayer Song.” She reconciles vulgarity and political awareness on the opening of the album (“Self”): “My pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism.”
Rhyming in rhythm
A poet before she was a rapper, Noname’s diction has always sailed between slam and rap. On Room 25, the young artist’s flow is more firmly articulated around rhythmic architecture, an evolution accompanied by the presence of Luke Titus Sangerman, the drummer on the whole album. His playing energizes the ever-airy compositions by Phoelix, who is at the controls of the production and already a key contributor to the previous album.
Musically, the album is just as rich as its predecessor. Its instrumentations defy description or force the enumeration of adjectives that empty the music of its mystery. Listening is a delight for delicate ears. This uniqueness is the product of Noname’s artistic ambition. Everything is homemade, from production to distribution, a guarantee of independence that she does not fail to highlight: “When labels ask me to sign, so my name don’t exist” (“No Name”).
There is no stylistic formatting, even if the bossa nova of “Montego Bae” and the funky bass of “Blaxploitation” are referenced borrowings. There are no collaboration constraints; the same team from Windy City is there: Smino, Saba, and Ravyn Lenae. Despite her move to Los Angeles, the Chicago native remains deeply attached to her hometown.
The short length of the project—just over half an hour—does not hurt its artistic ambition. She leaves our ears abuzz, just the right amount of excitement before reaching the high point.