Chicago based Noname has managed to be the industry’s best-kept secret for years now. Her first appearance for many was her feature on childhood friend Chance the Rapper’s 2013 breakthrough ‘Acid Rap’ on ‘Lost’. It would be 3 years however until we would hear Noname take full flight.
Her 2016 mixtape ‘Telefone’ saw her pursue a place in the art rap scene never before held. Her gentler, breezier approach to rap is as refreshing as it is engaging. She opts for woodwinds over bass drums to open room for her mediative, clever lines. Just see ‘Diddy Bop’ for one of the smartest tracks of the last decade. She works as both a poet and rapper, with her Nina Simone influences shining through the combinations at play.
She followed her critical breakthrough in 2018 with a gem of a debut with ‘Room 25’. Further enamouring critics and fans alike, the album develops further on melodies and political themes with grace and rhythm (See the bold ‘Blaxploitation’). ‘Room 25’ simultaneously shares stories and clever one-liners over deeper production, all aided by the continued accompaniment of her live band. See the standout ‘Window’ for her further diving into gorgeous melodies and former relationships. Her NPR tiny desk concert serves as a golden showcase for how the dynamic instrumentation aids her in flowing across these instrumentals, as well as her use of melodies live.
It’s also worth noting her collaborators, particularly that of Smino and Saba, to which she formed ‘Ghetto Sage’ and released the single ‘Haagen Dazs' in late 2019. Both collaborators feature across her short but sweet body of work. She also tends to use relatively unknown Chicago based artists for her features. Instead of opting for Chance the Rapper, she consciously boosts smaller artists on a platform where they will be heard, as she tastefully incorporates them into her songs.
Noname has consistently evaded the commercial spotlight for years now. Her industry connections show that she has consistently chosen integrity over streams. Her independent status, as well as her consistent support for contemporaries, show her to be possibly one of the strongest pillars of the art rap scene. With her new album supposedly coming this year, now is the perfect time to prepare for likely one of the best releases to usher in a new decade of incredible music.