After a long summer of anticipation since the beginning of teasing in July, we have been gifted with Room 25, the second album by Chicago-born spoken word artist turned rapper, Noname. With another delivery of conscious rap anchoring this latest effort to her debut album, Telefone, along with this being her second self-released piece, Noname has furthered her presence as the antithesis of mass produced hip-hop.
Born Fatima Nyeema Warner, Noname began her career performing slam poetry in and around Chicago in 2010. She then proceeded to gain a platform for her work with her appearance in Lost on Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap mixtape – a move which paved the way for a more concrete change in her artistic expression from spoken word to rap. This was followed later in 2016 by the release of her debut album, which was quick to receive critical acclaim.
Whilst ultimately less interested in hooks, this composition of neo-soul and spacey jazz offers a far bolder and more explicit lyrical stance than what Noname has previously achieved. Vocally, she is doubtlessly more mature and assertive in her narration. An expert of emotive contradiction, Noname delivers harrowing critiques of contemporary America, the black experience, and globalisation in tracks such as Blaxploitation; alongside genuinely humorous and wit-fuelled commentary, such as countering the common bravado of male rappers with “My pussy teaching ninth-grade English / My pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism”.
The new sense of womanhood present in this album creates a space for engaging with ruminations upon sex and sexuality. This is furthered by collaboration with Smino- a rapper that perhaps epitomises the electricity of sexual energy. Other hometown collaborations including Ravyn Lenae, Saba and Pheolix (additionally the executive producer) root this release as a proud product of Chicago’s musical network.
Noname’s earlier work veered away from being entirely personal, with songs such as Shadow Man tending more to serve as a poetic exploration of mortality. However, as the woman, the lover, and the poet – Noname allows her latest work to become more of a reflection and celebration of the self.