Review: Noname – Room 25

Chicago rapper Noname releases what might be one of this year’s best coming of age stories.

Matt Troher, Editor-In-Chief

The latest project from Chicago’s very own rapper Noname (Fatimah Warner) listens more like a spoken word poem than a rap album, and that’s exactly what makes her one of the best rappers in the scene right now.

Hailing from the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, Noname has been performing self-written poetry since 2010, and recording music not long after. It was at one of her slam poetry readings where became good friends, and eventually collaborators, with Chance the Rapper. The two would later go on to collaborate on Chance’s second mixtape, Acid Rap, which would lead to Noname becoming a prominent name in the Chicago rap scene.

Her debut album, “Room 25” details the two-year span since the release of her first mixtape, and delves into a story about an intense, short-lived relationship she experienced at the time. Confident and unapologetic, Noname leaves nothing off limits, speaking of race politics, sex, religion,and misogyny.

All the typical coming-of-age elements are there too: relationships, heartbreak, friendships, youth, and maturity fill the thematic gaps in Noname’s writing. Each one of the album’s eleven tracks serve as a chapter in the story of Noname’s life, giving listeners an autobiography-of-sorts of the past two years of her life.

Sonically, “Room 25” is a mellow journey of jazz rap and neo-soul. Beats are played live in-studio on a drumset, a departure from the drum machine that’s ever so prevalent in today’s rap scene. Noname’s flow is effortless, leading the listener on a winding path of rhymes, rhythms, and metaphors.

“Room 25” is a soft album. It’s not overly quiet to the point of frustration, but its mellow pianos and hushed vocals beg the listener for their attention, turning attention to Noname’s lyrics — and rightfully so. At times, it feels more natural to call Noname a poet than a rapper, but “Room 25” proves that she can be both.

Noname is the rapper we need today — confident yet humble, independent yet a collaborator, and perhaps most importantly, unproblematic. “Room 25” serves as a fantastic starting point for an emerging artist who can bring a lot to the table, and I’m excited to see where she goes next.