I think it’s fair to say that the music industry has taken a turn no one would have ever predicted in the 1980s or ’90s. After years of rock n’ roll being the music of the kings, nobody would ever have expected rap to become the most popular genre. Yet, somehow, here we are in a world where the new rock stars are not guitar players and drummers, but poets and mixers. Kanye West himself even said it: “Rap is the new rock ‘n roll. We the rock stars.”
Like rock was, rap is most often a man’s world. Female rappers that are popular and critically acclaimed are widely outnumbered by the men. For every Missy Elliot, there are three Snoop Doggs. Women like Missy, Nicki Minaj and Lauryn Hill have been able to make their own in the industry, but they are often mocked and treated as lesser than male rappers.
Rap has a new woman in town that’s facing more critical acclaim than most of the men out there today. Her name is Noname.
Noname was born Fatimah Warner and grew up in Chicago. She started out as a slam poet, and in 2013 was featured on fellow Chicagoan Chance the Rapper’s (ever heard of him?) blowup mixtape “Acid Rap.” Three years later, she released her own mixtape, titled “Telefone,” to widespread critical acclaim.
Yet, the jazz-rap mixtape still maintained a sort of anonymity for Noname, despite the fact that people continued to listen and love the album. This past festival round, she played at O’Sheaga in Montreal, Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago and even at Coachella. Talking to Rolling Stone in a recent interview, she said, “I don’t know many artists who have been able to like drop an album two years ago and then have Coachella hit them up to be like, ‘Yeah, we still give a shit.’”
Her first full album, titled “Room 25,” was released on Sept. 14. A much darker and more serious work than “Telefone,” Noname says much of the inspiration for it came from the quiet fame that was launched after “Telefone.” Referring to the past two years she’s spent living out of hotels, she said, “I was making a lot, thousands of dollars that I had never seen or thought I would ever accumulate. Like, I had a savings account. I had sex for the first time in my life that year.”
It’s exciting to see another release from a rapper as talented as Noname. A poet at heart, her rhythms are both exciting and beautiful, and her words are top-notch. Her background music is jazzy; Wikipedia describes the genre of “Room 25” as jazz rap and neo soul. Mostly, I think it’s due time that we see a woman as genuinely talented as Noname top the charts. Rolling Stone titled their article “Noname Is One of the Best Rappers Alive.” I wholeheartedly agree. Let’s start treating her that way.