The calendar year has officially turned to 2019 (a couple weeks ago…I know I’m behind but what are you gonna do about it?), and normally that would mean it’s time to turn our attention to early 2019 album releases, but I’m not there yet (see comment re: punctuality above), and year-end lists had me investigating what I might have missed. Noname’s debut record, Room 25, has found its way onto many top album lists, and for good reason. This soulful hip hop album is dripping with depth and feeling, and is bound to stir something up in the rap and non-rap fan alike.
We enter Room 25 to the sound of a relaxed back-beat, descending harmonized vocals, and a message of welcome from Noname herself. “Self” is a song that wonders what the album might come to mean for someone tuning in, but quickly coming to the conclusion that the music was made for the artist. Noname created this record to express herself, and the result is a deeply ernest album that is as emotionally gripping as it is a warm blanket.
The opening track is smooth as can be, and while Room 25 overall has a subdued, laid back tone, it has no shortage of fiery attitude. Noname makes sure to drive that point in right away on “Blaxploitation”, a high-paced tune featuring a punching drum and bass rhythm section. It is the first moment in which Noname brings the fight to her voice. Her delivery is quick and precise, and her wit is sharp. The first two songs operate in contrast to each other, but they hardly feel random or out of place. It’s a pairing that announces Room 25 as an album that has a strong identity and is going to take you places.
I won’t go into too much more detail, lest I spoil some of the discovery for you, but I’ll mention a few more things about Noname that make it such a strong album. Noname’s rap bring the tongue-twisting cleverness of Shad’s lyrics with the soulfulness of Erykah Badu. She is backed by the beats of an extremely tight R&B band, which perfectly matches the personal nature of her music and the exact way that she delivers her poetry. As if that weren’t enough, she uses featured vocalists to temporary colour to the album, ensuring that each song has its own character.
This one is a must-hear folks, if you missed it like I did, it’s never to late to go back and give it a try.
This Tiny Desk Concert of hers is her previous material, but it’s dope so check it out: