By: Tatiana Hazel
While you may have heard of her from her features on songs belonging to beloved Chicago artists like Saba and Chance the Rapper, Noname comes into a sound that is uniquely her own in new mixtape Telefone.
The highly anticipated mixtape features production by Saba, Monte Booker, Cam O’bi and Phoelix. The production itself is lighthearted and playful, but lyrically, Noname touches on some pretty dark and personal subjects.
The opening song “Yesterday” pays tribute to deceased Chicago poet and activist Brother Mike, a mentor at YouMedia center.
YouMedia is a space located in Harold Washington library where Chicago youth can go to create and network with other creatives. Brother Mike believed in a lot of Chicago artists when they were just getting their start in music, and the loss of such an influence and mentor hit the music scene hard.
Noname became increasingly interested in spoken word poetry during her time at YouMedia. Her background as a spoken word poet is extremely obvious in Telefone. The way she rhymes; bouncing off every word in a way that isn’t quite rapping but isn’t quite singing, is distinctively her own style. Although many people have called her the female Chance the Rapper - a friend she met at the YouMedia center - there is simply no comparison between the two artists, who are both great at what they do in their own regard.
/Ain’t no one safe in this happy city,/
In “Casket Pretty,” Noname faces the reality that Chicago is under a lot of political and social unrest, and too many young people fall victim to senseless violence, often times leading to premature death.
It is evident that the content for Telefone comes from an incredibly personal place. “Shadow Man,” a song featuring Saba, Smino, and Phoelix, once again brings up the topic of death. The song makes dying a reality and not so much a thing to be fearful of.
These artists preach that everyone will die someday and it is impossible to say how soon, but it is natural and death doesn’t always have to be so dreary. Instead, we should focus on the things we have yet to do while we still have life inside of us. From the artwork - featuring a youthful depiction of Noname sporting a skull on top of her head - to the music, Noname centers a lot of the project around the topic of death.
She also speaks about addiction, violence, family, and being “just some kids out of luck”. Telefone may be based off of Noname’s specific personal experience, but it has content that people from all walks of life can relate to.
Not only is Telefone sonically pleasing, but the content really puts it over the top. You can hear the genuine raw energy and emotion in every word. Noname believes that “Grammys is way too lofty” and she isn’t trying to make magazine headlines with her music. She is simply making music to share her life experiences and inspirations with the world.
While Noname may not be seeking high levels of success, there are definitely great things to come for this young and upcoming Chicago artist.