Back with a bang but delicate and honest as ever, Chicago rapper Noname’s latest project Telefone is a coming-of-age dialogue that channels the erratic buoyancy of young adulthood. The mixtape traces Noname’s brushes with loss and change through the frame of the telephone, opening up the doll’s house to expose the conversations that became the fabric of her youth.
Soulful dreamland beats piece together the tale, providing a sonic narrative that seems starcrossed to Noname’s routinely suave, playground-retrospective flow. Courtesy of producers Cam O’bi and Phoelix, touches of gospel, jazz and lo-fi are fused with Noname’s explicitly confessional style of hip-hop. The product is something that captures a discourse with the past. As Noname’s relationship with the city unravels, new vantage points are reached in understanding what it is to be a citizen of Chicago.
Mastered by years on the Chicago spoken word scene, Noname’s verses are crafted with wandering meters and an honesty that uncovers the innocence and burdens tied with youth. “I've been searching for God in the bottle he gave me / Ashes to Ashes, dearly departed, regarded as Holy / Don’t hold me, don’t hold me.” Telefone is the audible diary of a mid-twenties poet’s adjustment to all things adult.
This release is so fresh, so self-assured, and a rare nod to the necessities of the sweet and the sour. “This sound like Mississippi sippy cup, daddy turn bibby up / Henny invented the catalyst for happiness in my cup / This sound like kiddies on the playground when mama was running up.” Seasoned by rainy days, Noname’s portrait is hung for all to see through the pairing of resistant positivity and a melancholic resignation.
With a small handful of features from Chicago associates theMIND, Saba, and other stateside musicians alike, the release stands proud under Noname’s creativity. Known as a close friend of Chance the Rapper, the potential for guest spots from the likes of him or Mick Jenkins was high. But of speak of Noname as akin to Chance is misguiding; with an entirely different personal experience and voice, the only thing that visibly binds these two Chicago rappers is their friendship and city.
Words: Charlie Fyfe