Review: Noname’s ‘Room 25’ shows that future of rap is bright


Photo courtesy of Stereogum.com

Story by Naffie Njie / Contributing Writer

“Room 25” pulls no punches and dives headfirst into sexuality, blackness, womanhood and identity. It is unlike any album we have heard in 2018.

After more than a year of anticipation – two years if you consider the exact moment her previous mixtape dropped – the elusive Noname has released her second project, “Room 25.” Her first mixtape, “Telefone,” an introverted, self-reflective and conversational rap fan favorite, was met with critical acclaim. She has now presented us with a more confident and vulgar tone while preserving the same humility listeners would expect from a Noname project.

Fatimah Warner started rapping and performing slam poetry in her hometown of Bronzeville, Chicago in 2010. Inspired by some of our most beloved musical outsiders such as Andre 3000, Kanye West, Nina Simone, Avril Lavigne, Missy Elliot and writers Patricia Smith and Toni Morrison, she blends jazz-rap with singsong poetry.

She gained popularity in 2013 after appearing on Chance the Rapper’s “Lost” and other impressive features. Noname seemed to reach an untapped market in the otherwise male-dominated genre of “conscious, introspective rap,” giving audiences an honest and effortless version of it. This style is reminiscent of Lauryn Hill’s “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” without the subtle internalized misogyny, pretense and self-righteousness. Warner’s artistry is layered. She converges genres while exuding the original essence of hip-hop.

“Room 25” is transparent. Noname indelicately guides us through her perpetual growth while exposing herself. It is personal and honest without being invasive. It’s deep on its own without trying to convince us how meaningful it is. There’s no particular storyline either. The end of the album screams “To be continued.”

Noname’s ability to blend rap and spoken word creates a unique sound. Her execution of said combination makes her lyrics more interesting and complex. She’s blunt in her criticism of police brutality and corruption on “Prayer Song.”

“I set my cell phone on the dash, could’ve sworn it’s a gun,” she raps. “I ain’t seen a toddler in the back after firing seven shots. A demon ’bout to get me. He watching me kill his mom.”

Sex and love are a recurring theme in “Room 25’s” lyrics. Warner, assisted by Ravyn Lenae, flamboyantly raps about her newfound attainment of it on “Montego Bae.”

She also flaunts her ability on “Self,” saying, “Y’all really thought a b**** couldn’t rap huh?”

Overall, the lyrical content candidly portrays Noname’s relationship with herself and the world around her.

Blaxploitation,” “Ace” and “Part Of Me” are early standouts due to lyrical content and exceptional features, which include Smino, Phoelix, Benjamin Earl Turner and Saba. Guest appearances propel this album forward and balance Warner’s bars. Although no song on this album feels unnecessary, on my first listen, I noticed that the order in which the first five tracks are placed slow the album down tremendously and make it drag. By the time the shift came, I settled into the mood of the album and made it through the last half with ease.

Room 25″ is not just an extension of “Telefone,” it progresses Noname’s rhythmic ability and overall sound. When an artist discovers themselves and makes an album reflecting that, it sticks. “Room 25” has the potential to become a cult classic.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Sydney Wagner, email lifestyles@mtsusidelines.com.

For more updates, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Life.

 

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