Noname - Telefone

Released July 31, 2016

This is not your average coming of age hip hop album.

It is incredibly intimate, honest, and melancholic. Yet it bumps. Prior to her release of the first mixtape Telefone, Noname guested on popular Chicago rappers' tracks, like Chance the Rapper or Mick Jenkins. 

The album is full of gentle piano samples, wind instruments, and gospel infusion while never ignoring rich, heavy basslines. It is almost shocking to listen to her childlike voice tackle issues and examine herself without the pretence. There are many guests on the album, like Raury and theMind, yet it is still Noname who stands out. The clean, high-production elevates the mixtape to the unforgettable. "When the sun is going down, when the dark is here to stay..." (Yesterday) in the opening track is a snippet of the raw poetry that is fire from first line to last.

With a background in performing arts, Noname's lyrics are prose, and the album an anthology. She expresses a black female experience rife with lack of opportunity, yet full of hope. Through melodic tones and cutting lines, Noname creates a story with depth, redemption, motivation and growth. 

A major theme is of self love and Noname does this humbly and without ego. From tackling issues of race, abortion, and existential angst, Noname leaves you celebrating instead of hopeless. Perhaps its the blending of joy and pain and the recognition that they cannot exist without the other. Lines like "On a lonely road where happiness needs us" from Bye Bye Baby show this delicate balance between pain and hope.