Remember last month when we talked about Chicago singer Jamila Woods’ debut album for Debut Album Appreciation Month? Well, we’re going back to Chicago to shine some light on another excellent, enlightening debut project in Telefone from the rapper Noname.
The artist formerly known as Noname Gypsy (her reasoning for the change can be found here) was first introduced to me and many others on “Lost” from Chance the Rapper’s breakout project, Acid Rap. Since then she has continued to build with her fellow Chicagoians Saba, Mick Jenkins, Donnie Trumpet on Surf, and the aforementioned Jamila Woods.
On each feature Noname’s verses carry with them the freshness of the ever-underheard black woman, in a rapping style and flow that is not gendered or tailored or compromised in any way; one that’s as natural as and more robust than any given newcomer (on this year’s all male XXL Freshman list, for example). So the people began to wonder, when would Noname would drop a project all her own, and now she has.
On Telefone, Noname has the space to expound on the life and times of black youth in Chicago while flexing growth and diversity in her delivery and craft. The 10 tracks last just over 30 minutes, but each track flows so well into the next, and each line has the quality of knocking you back in your chair if you care to listen closely such that you’ll wish there was more by the end of the half hour.
Earlier this month “Diddy Bop” featuring Cam O’bi and Raury was shared as a World Premier on Beats 1, and Pitchfork showed some love as well, but “Reality Check” featuring Akenya and Eryn Allen Kane is my favorite. It’s built on a classic R&B platform, but Noname simply raps her ass off periodically over all that soul and the combination sounds so sweet.
With songs like “Freedom” and “Casket Pretty” Noname brings the emotional weight required to relax the listener into her flow, encouraging earnest listening and critical thinking. Try and picture the people and places in your mind, here and on the whole of Telefone. Noname and her well picked cast of features tell you all you want or need to hear about Chicago and middle America and, well, black youth everywhere. “Shadow Man” featuring Phoelix and Saba from Chicago, plus Smino from St Louis puts the perfect, heartfelt punctuation on Noname’s debut. It seems I’m only going to get to share one album with you this month — maybe I’ll be done processing Frank’s Blonde after, say, 50 more listens — so I would be remiss to let the month go by without encouraging you to give Telefone a spin.