Noname’s ‘Room 25’ a stunning example of powerful writing and emotion
Ryan Israel | Monday, September 24, 2018
Noname is a poet first and a rapper second. The 26-year-old Chicago native, formerly known as Noname Gypsy, does more with words than any other artist today, crafting creative and captivating songs that express complex emotions. It’s this talent that made the young female artist a key player in the Chicago rap scene in early 2013 and earned her an appearance on Chance The Rapper’s “Acid Rap.” Subsequent collaborations with fellow Chicagoans Saba and Mick Jenkins brought more attention to Noname and created anticipation for her debut album.
That album, released independently in 2016 and titled “Telefone,” was a collection of 10 thoughtful and intimate indie rap songs that dealt with identity, tragedy and everything in between. Noname proved her writing prowess and then some, utilizing a hushed, somber tone to deliver her poignant verses. The task of following up “Telefone” could not have been an easy one, yet on “Room 25,” Noname’s newest album, she exceeds expectations and delves deeper with her words.
Sonically, “Room 25” falls in line with the style Noname established on “Telefone.” She still often raps in a quiet, pensive tone, as if she were whispering her darkest secrets to the listener — it’s best to listen with headphones for the full effect. The bulk of production on the album is handled by Phoelix, who provides blissful rhythm and blues arrangements for Noname to rap on.
Key collaborators from “Telefone” are also featured on “Room 25.” The angelic Rayvn Lenae appears on “Montego Bae” and Smino and Saba contribute their own skillfully crafted verses to the track “Ace.”
What sets “Room 25,” and Noname herself, apart from everything else is writing. “Y’all really thought a b—- couldn’t rap, huh? / Maybe this your answer for that,” asserts Noname on the intro track “Self.” The track finds Noname possessed of a previously unseen self-confidence. She knows her talents as a writer are unparalleled, and she knows she can speak on politics, femininity and religion far better than the rappers fixated on money and women. Without a doubt, “Room 25” quells any discussion about Noname’s rapping abilities.
“Room 25” finds Noname at an even more personal level than she explored on “Telefone.” The key moments and emotions that make up the rapper’s life are prominent elements of her songs. Noname’s move from Chicago to Los Angeles is a recurring topic across “Room 25,” as she poignantly reflects, “moved to Englewood and the trauma came with the rent,” and more playfully states, “movin’ to LA, now I’m sippin’ on Sunny D.” The often stressful and hectic process of relocating one’s life clearly weighs on Noname’s mind.
On “Window,” the young poet details a serious romantic relationship and subsequent breakup with uncanny wisdom. She deals with the fears and doubts that come along with lost love, questioning, “So you really don’t think about me? / And you really don’t miss me?” but she also acknowledges the unrealistic expectations placed on her, stating, “You want a nasty b—-, psychiatrist that cook like your mama.”
“Don’t Forget Me” is an emotional track that captures Noname’s existential dread and worldly worries. Her struggles with alcohol, prescription medications and money are addressed, yet an overarching fear permeates the song: the fear of being forgotten. “If I have to go, I pray my soul is still eternal / And my momma don’t forget about me,” says the young artist, confronting the terrifying idea of being forgotten by those she loves most after her passing. It’s this outpouring of intimate feelings into cleverly written verses that makes Noname, and “Room 25,” truly special.
Album: “Room 25”
Favorite Tracks: “Window,” “Don’t Forget Me,” “Ace”
If you like: SZA, Chance The Rapper, Saba
Shamrocks: 5 out of 5