An Introduction to Noname

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

Colour Outside the Line

Kid Cudi is a flawed artist. But that doesn’t stop him from excelling. Or, at least, trying his hardest to.

If you were to take the albums of most artists and turn them into pictures, the collage would  be more or less cohesive. Green Day’s would be anti-establishment and political, Eminem’s would be violent and extremely elaborate but Cudi’s would be abstract. We have Cudi the Rager and Cudi the Rocker. Cudi the Rager gave us the first and second Man on the Moon and Indicud. Cudi the Rocker gave us WZRD (his project with Dot Da Genius) and Speeding Bullet 2 Heaven. While a large part of his fanbase is with the former, this project brought the two together.

Growing up, I didn’t have the privilege of having my music tastes nourished by Illmatic and Reasonable DoubtAll I had was So Far Gone and Man on the Moon. These records established a lot of the music I listen to now and for that I shall forever be grateful. With Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin’, Cudi is doing the same thing for this generation. He could have given us Man on the Moon III, another rock album (that we can live without) or just stick to acting. Instead, he grew. He isn’t the man on the moon. He is the man on jupiter; A planet with 67 moons. Because of him we have Travis Scott, Raury and, arguably, Kanye West.

This record is a return to form. The brilliant singles ‘Frequency’ and ‘Surfing’ plot out the album trajectory pretty well, ‘The Guide’ is as psychedelic as ever and ‘All In’ is the Mike Will Made It persona that you didn’t know existed. While I’m typically not fond of albums  longer than 13 songs, Cudi has done it brilliantly. We have more Andre features that we know what to do with, a Willow Smith duet that absolutely kills it and a masterful feature from his spiritual twin, Travis Scott.

Cudi bears his soul to us. His fractured soul. His volatile soul. As he says in ‘Swim in the Light’, you could try and numb the pain but it will never go away. Cudi is an artist not afraid to embrace emotion but wise enough not to check his girlfriends phone when she’s in the bathroom. This last few years haven’t made been easy on him. His breakout single ‘Day ‘n’ Nite’ is still his most successful single, the reception for his last project was utterly atrocious and depression has been at the forefront of his existence but instead of cowering in the shadows, he brought all of them together and gave us this.

Maybe we should live our lives like Kid Cudi. Colour outside the lines a bit more.

Rated: 3.8 / 5