Noname Stands Front and Centre of the Movement Redefining the Contours of Rhyme on 'Room 25'

Noname's Room 25 is vintage neo-soul and future rap hand in hand; a soulful sanctuary for those turned off by the austerity of mainstream mumble rap.

Room 25

14 September 2018

In a year of major releases and haughty postulations by female hip-hop artists, the much ado mantle of the queen of hip-hop has finally found its rightful owner. Artfully ambulating a liminality between spoken word and rapping, while paying little heed to the percussion intended to steer her mesmeric metaphors, the debut album of 26-year old Fatimah Warner, the anonymously monikered noname, is an insistent ode to independence.

Two years removed from her universally applauded mixtape Telefone and five from her standout feature on friend Chance the Rapper's Acid Rap, noname's self-financed, self-released, debut Room 25 is an album born of necessity. Cowed by her economic commitments and the untold investment that comes with the determination to remaining an unfettered artist; Room 25 was an undertaking coerced by the force majeure of financial obligation.

Having left her native Chicago for the first time in 2017 to move to LA, paying rent and supporting her family back home behooved Room 25's swift orchestration. After two years of disquieting over her ability to replicate the inspiration that led to Telefone, Room 25 was cut in a matter of mere weeks this summer. For an album apparently born of hesitancy, Room 25 smacks of purposefulness.

Helmed by fellow Chicagoan and multi-instrumentalist producer Phoelix, the enticing album opener "Self" invites listeners into her introspective sphere of social constructs, comfort food and aplomb -"y'all still thought a bitch couldn't rap, huh?" - while leaving little in the way of uncertainty that her bluster is unwarranted. Noname's wordplay, deftly assembled over Phoelix's live orchestration, is soothingly caustic. Delivering dexterous quotables on black trauma, noname's winsome alignment of syllables are harmonized by a humour rooted in the resilience of the black female condition.

Her honey drip flow bobs effortlessly over Phoelix's bounce on "Blaxploitation" with flowery furiosity - "when we cool, they cool we die, it's coon". Cascading into tired hip-hop cliches with a frenetic billow; she be to rap what sea be to rock. Afrocentricity hasn't sounded this sweet since Ladybug Mecca was Jettin.

Challenging the mythogensis of America on "Prayer Song" - "I tell Stanley when you grow up you gon' be just like your dad, a free man in the land of the noose", noname dulcetly sermonizes on the American civil religion; its cronyism, inequity and inherent prejudice bias. Meanwhile, the chordophone conducted "Window" recall the words and sounds of Jill Scott with a suggestive stream of consciousness and the kind of visceral vulgarity that can only be owed to heartache. Noname's post virginity sexual exuberance is tempered only by the shattered expectations of a first love and unfailingly delivered with a wistful smile.

Offering more than a nod of the head to D'Angelo on "Don't Forget About Me", fellow pastor's son Phoelix's gentle salute to the R&B god's "Really Love" is a pensive reflection on death that could have situated itself sonically on Black Messiah. There are moments on Room 25 where it feels like ?uestlove and Raphael Saadiq were in the studio alongside noname, crashing snares and plucking bass, but this soulful tapestry is the handiwork of noname's protean musical conduit.

Serene, even when decorating her dismay, the dreamy "Regal" finds noname purring soliloquies, "no more apples or oranges only pickles and pacifists, Twitter ranting for martyrdom unified as capitalists". By the time she's ready to bask in her own glory and her belief in the inevitable acclaim her debut will receive on "Ace", "Room 25 the best album that's coming out", we're already sold on its seminality.

Lauryn Hill's 1996 paronomasia is currently residing in Room 25. There's not a wasted syllable or opportunity to jest. The features, mostly drawn from her Chicago circle, only serve to underscore the virtuosity of her musical milieu further. These are the modern day Soulquarians. This is vintage neo-soul and future rap hand in hand; a soulful sanctuary for those turned off by the austerity of mainstream mumble rap. Noname stands front and centre of the movement, existing in the same historical moment as Kendrick Lamar, Toni Morrison and Nina Simone; sincerely engaged with social realities - redefining the contours of rhyme.





90 Years on 'Olivia' Remains a Classic of Lesbian Literature

It's good that we have our happy LGBTQ stories today, but it's also important to appreciate and understand the daunting depths of feeling that a love repressed can produce. In Dorothy Strachey's case, it produced the masterful Olivia.


Indie Rocker Alpha Cat Presents 'Live at Vox Pop' (album stream)

A raw live set from Brooklyn in the summer of 2005 found Alpha Cat returning to the stage after personal tumult. Sales benefit organizations seeking to end discrimination toward those seeking help with mental health issues.

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

A Lesson from the Avengers for Our Time of COVID-19

Whereas the heroes in Avengers: Endgame stew for five years, our grief has barely taken us to the after-credit sequence. Someone page Captain Marvel, please.


Between the Grooves of Nirvana's 'Nevermind'

Our writers undertake a track-by-track analysis of the most celebrated album of the 1990s: Nirvana's Nevermind. From the surprise hit that brought grunge to the masses, to the hidden cacophonous noise-fest that may not even be on your copy of the record, it's all here.


Deeper Graves Arrives via 'Open Roads' (album stream)

Chrome Waves, ex-Nachtmystium man Jeff Wilson offers up solo debut, Open Roads, featuring dark and remarkable sounds in tune with Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus.

Featured: Top of Home Page

The 50 Best Albums of 2020 So Far

Even in the coronavirus-shortened record release schedule of 2020, the year has offered a mountainous feast of sublime music. The 50 best albums of 2020 so far are an eclectic and increasingly "woke" bunch.


First Tragedy, Then Farce, Then What?

Riffing off Marx's riff on Hegel on history, art historian and critic Hal Foster contemplates political culture and cultural politics in the age of Donald Trump in What Comes After Farce?


HAIM Create Their Best Album with 'Women in Music Pt. III'

On Women in Music Pt. III, HAIM are done pretending and ready to be themselves. By learning to embrace the power in their weakest points, the group have created their best work to date.


Amnesia Scanner's 'Tearless' Aesthetically Maps the Failing Anthropocene

Amnesia Scanner's Tearless aesthetically maps the failing Anthropocene through its globally connected features and experimental mesh of deconstructed club, reggaeton, and metalcore.


How Lasting Is the Legacy of the Live 8 Charity Concert?

A voyage to the bottom of a T-shirt drawer prompts a look back at a major event in the history of celebrity charity concerts, 2005's Live 8, Philadelphia.


Jessie Ware Embraces Her Club Culture Roots on Rapturous 'What's Your Pleasure?'

British diva Jessie Ware cooks up a glittery collection of hedonistic disco tracks and delivers one of the year's best records with What's Your Pleasure.


Paul Weller Dazzles with the Psychedelic and Soulful 'On Sunset'

Paul Weller's On Sunset continues his recent streak of experimental yet tuneful masterworks. More than 40 years into his musical career, Weller sounds as fresh and inspired as ever.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.