Deadpan Attitude: A Review of Noname’s Telefone

Unnumbered Album Review #5

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When I first listened to Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap, I noticed one of the artists that featured on one of his tracks. And then when she returned on Chance’s next mix tape, Coloring Book, which I recently reviewed, I just had to look her up. Noname Gypsy, who has changed her name to simply Noname, gives two great featuring performances on Chance The Rapper’s mixtapes, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s my review of Noname’s album Telefone.

The first thing I loved about Noname was her voice. She has a beautiful rapping voice. It’s very soft and sweet but it’s also a little crackily and that gives it this deadpan attitude that works so well in her songs.

The instrumentation on this album seems to have been created from a mixture of influences. On “Yesterday”, we get sort of classic feel with the soft piano that’s played over a classic hip-hop beat. On “Diddy Bop”, the instrumentation has more of an R&B feel. On “Shadow Man”, Noname uses a soft organ and gives the song a soulful feeling. Many of the songs on this album seemed to have the DNA of different musical genres and the music production and assembly of it is done quite well.

Speaking of a mix of influences, this is not only a musical theme on this album, but it’s also a conceptual theme. Noname cites many musical and personal influences and pays homage to the contributions they have made to her music and her life. On “Yesterday”, Noname raps the line, “Me missing brother Mike, like something heavy” referring to a Chicago mentor. On “Sunny Duet”, Noname raps, “Janet Jackson and flashing lights, we can dance a little if you’d like to” referring, of course, to Janet Jackson. The title of the third track on the album, “Diddy Bop” is literally a reference to Sean Combs/P. Diddy’s dance, The Diddy Bop. Then there’s the opening for lines of “Forever” Where Nonames sings, “Miss Nina Simone, Jimmy Jones, Missy Elliot were my Relatives, Never forget my Andre”. But the biggest influence felt on this albums seems to be from Nina Simone who, on the track, “Freedom”, gets the intro to speak about her own idea of freedom.

Another conceptual theme on this album seems to be ambition. Noname yearns for success but is blocked by self-doubt, as shown in the song “Reality Check” when Noname says, “She dream in techni-color, live in black and white.”

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With “Shadowman” Noname pays homage to all of her friends who have fallen to violence, singing in the outro, “Bless the Nightingale, Darkness keeps you well”, here Noname is referring to her fallen loved ones and wishing them peace. Another song, “Casket Pretty” which deals with the problem of violence brought on by societal corruption and injustice that Africans American have to deal with on a daily basis opens with the lines, “All of my niggas is casket pretty, Ain’t no one safe in this happy city, I hope you make it home safe.” This is a biting criticism of the world Noname lives in, each line seems to be filled with so much force. Further on in the same song, Noname says, “And I’m afraid of the dark, Blue and the white, Badges and pistols rejoice in the night, And we watch the news, And we see him die tonight.”In these lines Noname is referring to the police shootings of African Americans and how when they go unnoticed by the general public, the police “rejoice”. This line emphasizes the cruel behavior the police and our society as a whole demonstrates towards African Americans.

This album is feels incredibly personal but also incredibly mature. For a debut album, Noname handles the subjects she covers with maturity and grace. Noname seems to be a fresh and unique voice in music and I am excited to here what she does next.

Thank you for reading this blog post. In this post a specific word was used. I did not use this word lightly and I struggled to decide whether to use it in the review or not. I understand how sensitive the matter of using a word like this can be and I would encourage all others to use their own discretion when using this word. Thanks again for reading, I hope you enjoyed this blog.

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