Every time I write about an artist I try my hardest to listen to everything they’ve ever released. While I do genuinely love these artists, it’s never an easy thing to do. They’ve grown and matured over time and comparing their debuts to their latest albums is like. . the cliché apples and oranges. With Noname, I didn’t feel that at all. Admittedly, her discography isn’t as wide as A Tribe Called Quest’s, but it was much easier to digest. Something I’d highly advice you to consider.
Noname is a rapper by profession and a poet by nature. Admittedly, the two are not entirely separate entities, but listening to Noname brings out the distinction clearly. Her lyrics invoke meaning in an age where rap is more about what you have than who you are and, in a way, that makes her more conventional of a rapper than she seems. Look at the first verse from her song ‘Yesterday’ on her experiences with alcohol:
My devil is only closer when I call him back
Liquor in a limelight
Look her in the limelight
With fine wine and ecstasy
You can have the rest of me
Basket case silhouette, cigarette, internet
Check my twitter page for something Holier than black death
Another fine example from Kendrick:
All I have in life is my new appetite for failure
And I got hunger pain that grow insane
Tell me do that sound familiar?
If it do then you’re like me, making excuse that your relief
Is in the bottom of the bottle and the greenest indo leaf
As the window open I release everything that corrode inside of me
Now, as a sharp contrast, 2 Chains verse from ‘Mercy’:
Okay, now catch up to my campaign
Coupe the color of mayonnaise
I’m drunk and high at the same time
Drinkin’ champagne on the airplane (Tell ’em!)
Spit rounds like the gun range, beat it up like Rampage
Hundred bands, cut your girl, now your girl need a Band-Aid
While it is hardly fair to compare these artists to each other, doing so brings out their different views on the same topics. In a way, this shows the people that they are. Noname accepting and trying to escape the drug-induced lifestyle she’s living, Kendrick bringing out the peer pressure behind every night out and 2 Chainz trying to get lit. This is by no means a criticism of their lifestyles or world views but rather how they present them to their respective audiences. And to that I say, to each their own.
Noname is part of the new wave of rappers to come out of Chicago and a common factor that Chicagoan rappers have is their sense of unity. No-one brings this out like Chance the Rapper, a musician I have utter reverence for. This Christmas (well, last) he did an (amazing) mixtape with Jeremih, his collaborations with Kanye are legendary (Ultralight Beam!) and he bounces off Noname lyrics like its a Watch the Throne rendition. He brings out the best of her like she brings out the best in him. Listen to their collaborations ‘Lost‘, ‘Finish line/Drown‘, ‘The Tragedy‘ and my favorite ‘Israel‘.
Her debut mixtape Telefone is undoubtedly my favourite record from 2016. All ten songs are on my most played songs playlist in their exact order. Listening to it is routine. It’s calming. It’s absolutely meaningful. If she never released another record (God-forbid) I would not mind (that much) because I feel in one fell swoop she did all she could ever do for music (there could never be enough Noname music). Noname is wonderfully wordy and awkward and raw and this is extremely clear in her music. Telefone’s features aren’t gratuitous or pandering. They are true to her music and the person that Noname is. So do yourself a solid this 2017 and listen to it. The only thing you shall regret is not discovering it earlier.
Tell me what you think about it when you’re done.
Image: The Vulture