Noname – Telefone Review 

It seems like the phrase “Chicago born rapper” is quickly becoming a mute term simply because of the sheer number of interesting artists coming out of the city. Noname now adds her name to the list alongside the likes of Chance the Rapper, Mick Jenkins (who she has collaborated with on their respective albums) and Saba. In these collaborations Noname didn’t quite standout as an obvious “next big thing” on the Chicago rap scene and this was probably down to her very understated, relaxed and down to earth delivery. Never in your face or trying outdo anyone, noname comes across in a very relatable fashion and now that she has room to breathe in her first solo effort we can really get a feel for who noname is.

 Her personality is unsurprisingly reflected even more so in her intimate lyrics and production style. These two elements contrast on certain tracks like “Casket Pretty”, “Bye Bye Baby” and “Shadow Man” where the super sweet production style is matched with deep emotional topics. In the former she raps about the racial violence in Chicago. Scared to even pick up the phone, she hopes her “casket pretty” friends will make it home alive. “Shadow Man” too touches on some of these aspects as noname, Saba and Smino take turns in describing their own funerals. “Bye Bye Baby” is the closest noname gets to a ballad as piano chords accompany her as she talks us through her feelings after having an abortion saying she can’t wait for a “play date up in heaven soon/ Soon I will see the King/ He reminds me/ Some give presents before they’re even ready”. 

 Noname doesn’t always take herself so seriously though and tracks like the aptly named “Sunny Duet” is both warm, sweet and catchy with its acapella-like riff and lyrics about a former crush of hers. Noname keeps it light hearted on the follow up track “Diddy Bop”, in which she takes us down her childhood memory lane when her “whole neighbourhood did the diddy bop”. Musically smooth, laid back and uplifting it encapsulates the album perfectly.

  However, comparisons between Noname and Chance will inevitably be drawn considering their stylistic similarities and in some ways she could improve by having a more engaging rapping style like Chance. Although her understated style is part of her charm, she could perhaps be a little more engaging without losing out on that element. The only other fault on “Telefone”, despite it’s extremely good production value is its small rare losses in sharpness although this can be excused on a debut mixtape. Yet, this is just nit-picking and it is hard to criticise the mixtape since it’s so full of her infectious happiness and personality.  

Noname – Telefone = 8.5/10

Callum Christie

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