Noname’s unique style attracts students


Quentin Shaw

Noname performs at Foellinger Auditorium on Friday.

By Tyler Panlilio , Columnist

Fatimah Warner, better known by her stage name Noname, is something else. A Chicago-native, the former poet now spits bars in a refreshing way. And starting off her first tour of the year, Noname rocked our socks off right here at the University.

The female rapper’s performance Friday night at Foellinger Auditorium was a mix of melancholic ballads and uplifting doo-wop melodies which garnered almost 400 attendees. Personally, these tunes were what I’d expect when going to a hip-hop concert, but the uniqueness has made that much more attractive. Noname’s live band elevated the hour-long performance as students crowded around the stage from their seats — not even 20 seconds into the first song — chanting and clapping in unison.

While most fans first heard her poetic verses alongside Chance the Rapper on the track “Lost” off his mixtape “Acid Rap” in 2013, Noname has finally made a bigger name for herself. Her debut mixtape, “Telefone,” was released in July of 2016 to a widespread recognition. Compared to other albums that dropped that same year, “Telefone” was a breath of fresh air in terms of delivery, lyricism and instrumentation.

The mood of the auditorium was a rollercoaster of emotions as the 25 year-old rapper and her band performed fan favorites off of her mixtape. Song topics included heavier subjects like funerals and opportunity, which reflects Noname’s experiences and conversations over the telephone as she grew up in Chicago.

One of the performance’s more notable traits was Noname’s ability to make some of the darker, more somber songs feel optimistic and breezy. Coupled with her band grooving humbly in the background — which you could tell by their funky facial expressions and the crowd’s approval — the whole performance was the type of jam that you’d happily spread on your toast in the morning.

But of course, some songs hit too close to home for our Chicago-native female rapper. Before moving into “Bye Bye Baby,” a song telling the story of her abortion, Noname looked up to the ceiling for a moment.

At the surface level, Noname’s songs are slow jams; tunes to play during a night drive. But beyond that, they tell us the journey of her life up to this point — we get a glimpse into the life of Fatimah, not Noname.

Noname is not much older than students here on campus. Her struggles while growing up in Chicago are more likely to resonate with us than any other age group. Dealing with a relative’s illness, having self-doubt when opportunity knocks and feeling love are all real, relatable experiences that college students go through.

That small, subtle gesture made the performance feel much more real. Noname is an extraordinary poet, and that translates to the unparalleled vocabulary in her bars. But she’s also a colorful personality when performing. Whether it was her going from one side of the stage to the other and having the audience sing the main chorus during songs or the playful commentary in between, it’s safe to say just about everyone had a good time.

While a majority of up-and-coming hip hop artists gravitate toward more stiff, trap-influenced melodies and beats, Noname deviates from this norm. The entirety of “Telefone” draws you in with soft melodies from xylophones and pianos and minimal break beats leaning on Noname’s signature spoken-word, down to earth vocals.

This take on hip hop is both underrepresented and underrated in the rap game. Of course, everyone loves turning up to some Kendrick or some Kanye, but sometimes, we need to relax and unwind. This isn’t to say that those artists don’t delve into slower, more reflective songs.

Rather, it’s simply not what they are generally known for. Noname’s “Telefone,” however, is a small gem that goes against the current; instead of hard, aggressive tunes, the mixtape’s soft delivery encourages introspection and reminiscence.

And the performance Friday served to prove this unique style after the band walked off stage. Wanting one last performance, students collectively shouted,“One more song! One more song! One more song!”

To which Noname and her band walked on once more and performed “Shadow Man,” a song about mortality. It was a fitting song to end a phenomenal performance.
Because at some point, all good things come to an end.

Tyler is a freshman in Media. 

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