Noname, real name Fatimah Warner, found a valuable niche in hip-hop as one of the coolest acts around with her quiet, yet potent 2016 mixtape Telefone and a number of features. Two years later, she has a plethora of musings after moving away from her native Chicago, grasping fame with a headlining tour and loving and losing in a relationship. Noname has not added to or detracted much from her very distinct sound, but her latest record Room 25 is chock full of beautiful instrumentals and smooth flows that breeze through 11 tracks across 35 minutes.
While six of the record’s 11 songs are over three minutes long, the whole record moves quickly between tracks; most songs only have one or two verses, and Noname has stuck to a hushed, but urgent flow that gives her verses and choruses a sense of balance against the laid back instrumentals.
Much of Room 25 has similar sonic foundations, but these baseline beats don’t grow old easily. The drums are loose, like the suave bossa nova groove “Montego Bae,” but they can intensify for the right situation as well, like the background hi-hat in “Ace” and the technical funk beat in “Blaxploitation.” In addition, Noname always produces a warm jazz-focused sound in her orchestral strings, guitar and bass or low key electronic touches, if not a combination of all three. “Regal” provides a good example of the latter — it has an organic feel, even if the instruments are not all traditional.
"Noname eases through lyrical techniques as if she were checking off items while grocery shopping."
Noname, who owns up to her flow and lyrics as “lullaby rap,” is in top form as she navigates numerous topics throughout Room 25, and she eases through lyrical techniques as if she were checking off items while grocery shopping. “Blaxploitation” references a variety of people and places like in opening lines "Your n**** just moved to Wicker/ Your mammy stay on the south side/ She paid to clean your house, power of Pinesol, baby." In the next track, she tackles police brutality in the incendiary lines “I ain’t see a toddler in the back after firing seven shots/ A demon ‘bout to get me, he watching me kill his mom.”
Love and home, two overarching themes throughout the record, are articulated well, even if they are very common themes throughout popular music. Noname’s longing for her native Chicago and graceful bitterness against a former lover give her more conviction than the ambitious drive throughout Telefone, where she had only just moved to LA and had not yet been through that relationship.
It was a long two years before Noname released Room 25, but she proved that the wait was well worth it in crafting such a taut and concise record. Whereas Telefone felt like an exercise in who she was and what she was capable of, Room 25 is a full flex.
Final Grade: B
Carl "CJ" Zabat is the Daily Cardinal's music columnist. To read more of his work, click here.