Noname’s songs give a dose of reality in a sugary sweet capsule that goes down so fast you might miss her truth if you don’t slow down and listen.
The 25-year-old rapper took the stage at Tipitina’s Monday night in front of sold-out crowd, a generally youthful bunch with no shortage of overalls and flannels. In her own set of overalls worn over a white t-shirt, fit right in. She spoke casually and confessionally to her audience throughout the show.
Hailing from the continuously booming Chicago rap scene, the blooming artist born Fatimah Warner came of age in a world of poetry and spoken word with the Young Chicago Authors and YOUmedia. Like New Orleans, no matter how big the Chicago rap scene may get, it’s still a small world. Previously known as Noname Gypsy, she made her first appearance in the national consciousness doing feature spots on songs by fellow Chi-town rappers Chance the Rapper and Mick Jenkins. In July, she released her debut album Telefone to widespread critical acclaim.
Her poetic roots showed through not only in the musicality of her lyrics, but also their delivery. In spoken-word style, she gave her words power by playing with their pacing well as her own body language and facial expressions. Noname raps like a passionate professor with an energetic reverence for her subject matter.
Each of the professor’s songs is a lesson in its own right. Noname brought the crowd, reluctant to dampen its enthusiasm, to silence before launching into her rendition of “Casket Pretty,” creating a clean canvas for the opening lines of the song: “All my n****s is casket pretty. Ain’t no one safe in this happy city. I hope you make it home.” For her encore, Noname performed “Yesterday,” a bouncy but heartbreaking meditation on what it means to discover death and identity as a young woman.
Noname is a novice to fame. Although she carried herself with a quiet self-satisfaction, she seemed at times unsure how to handle the crowd’s attention and the validation of her work.
She averted her eyes from the audience, looking more towards her band members as she rapped over and over again the line “get comfortable,” from Mick Jenkins’s song “Comfortable” on which Noname features. Later in the show, she looked into crowd and proclaimed, “I’m naked as hell,” drawing attention to to her personal vulnerability in the live performance of her own art.
Noname is currently on tour with Arima Ederra, an Ethiopian artist based in Los Angeles who sounds like Noname if Noname were raised by Norah Jones. The tour, which has sold out multiple shows, started in San Francisco and will take the artists across the United States, ending in a sold-out homecoming in the Windy City.