WRITTEN BY: Savannah Arnold
Chicago rapper and poet Noname has released her long-awaited sophomore album Room 25 on September 14th, as the follow-up to her debut 2016 album Telefone. Much like her previous album, Room 25 has received widespread critical acclaim for its unique spoken-word style and cozy hip-hop appeal. In addition to this funky, liberating audial atmosphere Noname creates with her music, she is unafraid to cover hard-hitting topics regarding racial tensions, gentrification, as well as introspective takes on self-image, self-sustainability, and remembrance.
Noname recorded the album in about a month’s time, and paid for it in full by herself with money gathered from touring and features on fellow Chicago native Chance the Rapper’s projects. Although Room 25’s inspiration and content revolves around Noname’s two years since Telefone, including her move from Chicago to LA and her familial and romantic relationships, it was created out of a primarily financial incentive of needing to make ends meet and pay rent. This almost reinforces Noname’s intimate, genuine approach to her music; the celebrity that she has garnered from her past endeavors has not removes her from the struggles of everyday life.
Room 25’s opening track “Self,” is as the name suggests, incredibly self-aware. Although it is only a two-verse track, it manages to establish the mood as not only thoughtful and engaging to its audience, but incredibly personal to Noname’s own narrative. It manages to concisely fit topics such as self-introspection, loneliness, God, racial institutions, womanhood, and problematic masculinity, it serves as an all- encompassing anthem not only for Noname but for all who are listening.
The album’s next song, “Blaxploitation,” is centered around racial issues and the exploitation sans acceptance of black culture. Its heavy bass establishes a sense of urgency while playing on racial tropes, featuring sampled dialogue, Noname claims her identity underneath a funky, fast-paced tune.
“Prayer Song” returns to slower, more minimal pace that focuses on the criticism of the America’s superficialness, portrayed by motifs of religion and sex. “Window” continues this gentler, dreamier, softer vibe, but explores a darker internal crisis. The lyrics of speak of a newfound happiness, but are quickly followed by “everybody think they know me, don’t nobody really know me,” and urges her audience to “quit looking out the window; go find yourself.” The guise of happiness that Noname portrays is ultimately triumphed by the familiar imagery of looking out a window and feeling lost.
The next track Noname’s favorite on the album is “Don’t Forget About Me”; delicate and pensive, she speaks of a common superficial happiness we all strive for.
Moreover, she urges her family to remember her, in hopes of remembering herself and where she came from. This track has a wholeheartedly sincere tone, the most profound line being when Noname proclaims; “All I am is love, all I am is love.”
The next song, “Regal,” maintains the overall quality of the album, but perhaps just lacks a bit as much meaning as its fellow songs. The following track “Montego Bae” is definitely the most lighthearted track on the album. Its title is a cute, silly little play on Montego Bay, tourist city in Jamaica, and ties itself to themes of escapism and sexuality. “Ace” is a soulful track that is particularly feature heavy. “Part of Me” explores a type of self-improvement that goes hand-in-hand with self-acceptance, overtop another funky bassline. Room 25’s penultimate song “With You” consists of just a single verse, outlining Noname’s past relationships and struggles that distinguish her experiences throughout her life.
The album’s final track no name, the only lowercased song title, serves as a short explanation of her “noname,” and provides us with final take-away message; Don’t let your life pass you by.
Overall, Room 25 is another beautiful, thoughtful project from Noname. Catch her while she is in Philly at Union Transfer on Saturday, January 12th.
- Prayer Song ft. Adam Ness
- Window ft. Phoelix
- Don’t Forget About Me
- Montego Bae ft. Ravyn Lenae
- Ace ft. Smino, Sabe
- Part Of Me ft. Phoelix, Benjamin Earl Turner
- With You
- no name ft. Yaw, Adam Ness