Rapper Noname Comes of Age on Room 25


Chicago rapper Noname makes it clear [...] how she feels about the state of the Union,” on her debut album, Room 25. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

By Elise Soutar

When reflecting on a period of growth or change in your life, especially if the period is painful or awkward, you tend to have an extremely specific mental scrapbook that includes what was happening and what events surrounded personal experiences in the center.

This concept plays out seamlessly on Chicago rapper Noname’s debut album, Room 25.

Born Fatimah Warner, Noname originally rose to prominence from her guest appearances on Chance the Rapper’s last two major projects and from her critically acclaimed mixtape, Telefone, which came out last year.

Since 2017, the nation has weathered various difficult events, with threats against the rights of women and people of color.

These issues are especially relevant in the midst of the controversy surrounding Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh’s trial and the possibility that he will be appointed to the Supreme Court.

Noname makes it clear within the first few tracks how she feels about the state of the Union.

The track “Blaxploitation” samples from ’70s blaxploitation films which deal with the struggles of black people and civil rights.

It’s shocking how relevant the sound bites still are today, despite the fact that they were recorded almost 50 years ago.

Similarly, “Prayer Song” comments on police brutality, even taking on the point of view of a white police officer (“I seen a cell phone on the dash, could’ve sworn it’s a gun/I ain’t see a toddler in the back after firing seven shots”).

While the whirlwind of the political and social climate has clearly affected Noname, she connects those bigger struggles with the milestones she’s encountered in her own life since her last project.

She struggles with her identity (“I have to focus on the part of me that I’m trying to be/I can’t pretend I’m not myself”).

She struggles with failed relationships (“Gave you a taste of my redemption and now I want my drink back/Somebody hold me like I’m almost enough”).

She addresses the new culture surrounding her following her move from Chicago to Los Angeles (“My doctor really love me, how I’m only half awake/I just came from the funeral, my ugly passed away”).

Noname’s lyrics are structured almost like poetry, which makes sense, considering she initially began writing songs as a result of her interest in creative writing and slam poetry.

Every word fits perfectly into every line, seemingly gliding through the music.

What she says and how she says it perfectly complements the stream-of-consciousness style of the narrative behind her lyrics.

Noname takes large chunks of songs to demystify the anonymity she has created with her rapping persona, even referencing stories of fans who have thanked her for making music, though she herself doesn’t feel special.

“You title email: ‘Noname, thank you for your sweet Telefone/It saves lives,’” she raps in “Don’t Forget About Me,” “The secret is I’m actually broken.”

It’s clear that Noname absolutely refuses to be considered anything other than a woman who creates art, not a monumental figure who exists as a prophet for the people who connect with her.

The lyrics are clearly the main focus of the project.

However, you shouldn’t let that fool you into thinking the sounds which support the poetry are just there to create background noise.

The jazz-tinged music intertwines itself into the lyrics’ message throughout the album.

It’s a combination of sounds that is simply not prevalent in mainstream rap today and sets Noname apart as an artist to look out for in the coming years.

“Freedom is everyone’s business,” a sample on “Blaxploitation” tells us, and it’s clear that the phrase can be applied to working together to create a better world.

It also applies to whatever freedom we can find within ourselves from the emotional demons we encounter.

As Noname airs her dirty laundry, she encourages us to do the same through her example of intricate, thought-provoking music.


Chicago rapper Noname “makes it clear […] how she feels about the state of the Union,” on her debut album, Room 25. (Courtesy of Wikimedia).