Article by Saif Alavi
In recent years, Fatimah Nyeema Warner known by her current artist persona as Noname has been active in the advancing the Chicago Rap scene over the past couple of years. As the vocal bodies of Trap and Drill music have been reverberating throughout Chicago, Chance The Rapper and his Gospel affiliates have been calling for an extension away from the adrenaline.
With his success with Acid Rap in 2013, Chance’s name has been shining a light on his collaborators over the years, such as the regal Jazz trumpeter, Donnie Trumpet, and bad boy brigadier, Vic Mensa. Chance’s voice gave the microphone to a south-side Chicago lyrical poet, Fatimah Warner. Warner kept under the radar for the handful of years she’s been active in the scene.
In 2016 her debut album Telefone allowed her name to penetrate the Hip-Hop scene, leading her to become a household icon. Telefone was mostly sweet and melodic, but at some points held thematic feelings of sorrow and forced acceptance.
As that album introduced the topics Noname caressed with her spoken word, Room 25 continues the emotive journey. The album touches on both familiar and different topics from Telefone, with the same sweet air and caress. Although, what leveled this upon Telefone is how slightly different Warner approached this project.
What distinguishes Noname from other conventional rappers is her subtly when speaking her thoughts. Warner speaks her mind with a controlled tone, at some points whispering, at other points, joyful. Warner is not by any means languid. When she tells her stories, it’s with full transparency.
In Telefone, she rapped in a way where every message was clear. She would speed up or control her pacing with respect to the production of the track, but never wanes from her clarity.
In this album, her techniques extend more beyond what Telefone accomplished. The production is maximized with soulful aesthetics and crooning voices. The features here are yet another modicum of up-and-coming musicians, with the exception of Smino and Saba.
When it comes to Warner’s delivery, it also has progressed since Telefone. When she gives her delivery, it sometimes reaches the point of old school Three 6 Mafia steadfast pace.
While Telefone had production leaning more towards minimalist beat procedures, its sweetness and joyfulness came from the soulful chords and airy sounds. Room 25 disdains away from the minimalism and focuses more on the Neo-Soul. This album has a collective noise of the bass guitar, playful electric chords, and polyphonic harmonies.
There are points or orchestra, points of exotic instrumentation, and points of D’Angelo-esque Neo-Soul. The production of the album is definitely a highlight of the whole project. I had fun just listening to the sound alone throughout each track.
She’s able to speed up her delivery and slow down mainly appropriate times. Ironically my favorite track off the project “Montego Bae,” I’ll admit her verse is well said nearing the end, but I wish she wouldn’t have tried to accelerate her delivery. Although, regardless of the pacing or delivery, every word is meant to be heard with full comprehension.
The first track of the album “Self,” is an accurate foreshadowing of only half of what you would expect for the album. It sounds like it would fit right in Telefone. There’s a blissful voice that prolongs and repeats throughout the track. Along with the melody, Noname introduces her style of rapping.
Photo by Ben Kaye
It’s somewhat familiar from Telefone, but it sounds much more rehearsed and practiced. Her pacing is much more thought out. Noname introduces the topics meditated throughout the whole project, including topics of observation, human image, and environmental circumstances.
This is also apparent in the third track, ”Prayer Song”. Noname’s tongue rapidly peddles to the point where all the words are condensed together, but her stories are clear to understand. This is a strength when it comes to her approach to her music. When she tells a story, she doesn’t take the method that Kendrick Lamar likes to take, by acting out as the character.
With Lamar, each album plays out as a conceptual narrative, so it’s appropriate in that context. Instead, Noname will describe the life of the character she’s describing. As she’s saying, “I” or “my,” she has already set an environment in which her character will reside in.
At other times, she will either use her character’s story or her own voice to state a message. In one of the more heart-warming tracks, Window, Noname’s clear message is harmonized by a beautiful orchestra, along with tempered chords.
Noname’s verse may be a little ambiguous, as she uses more the poetic prose to present her verses, but Phoenix’s hook in the second half makes it better to understand, and helps it become much more resonating. The message about finding yourself and not submitting your image solely to the marketing trends is a typical pontification Noname will display itself,but does not degrade its effectiveness.
The whole album, rather, her whole character, relies on the listener to actually find their own voice. Throughout the album, Noname presents stories about the deception of lust and sorrow and the righteous path of finding your own voice. Being that this is only her second album, it presents good effort on her and her collaborators part.
Whatever direction she will take from here on out, hopefully, her character does not become forgotten. It doesn’t seem like that would happen anytime soon.
Featured Photo by Maurice Harnsberry