in Review

Noname – Room 25

There are a couple albums that would be nice to talk about before Mildly Pleased shifts into Shocktober mode on Monday, so here’s one that’s stuck with me lately. Noname is an artist that I had no recollection of when Room 25 started gathering rave reviews a couple weeks ago. But after a first listen, I recognized her voice from an appearance on Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap mixtape, while also recalling the image of her last mixtape’s artwork showing up in some 2016 end-of-year lists. Obviously, this barely counts as having previous experience with an artist, so Room 25 has felt like a left-field breath of fresh air from a rapper who has clearly come into her own.

I’m well aware that I have a tendency to downplay any sort of rap credibility on my part whenever I review an album in this genre, and my affinity for Room 25 probably has something to do with that lack of credibility. Because Noname skirts hip-hop conventionality in a lot of ways. For one, she has a lot of neo-soul and jazz influences serving as the backbone to her songs. Meanwhile, her flow sounds like something just flat out different, probably due to her having a background in slam poetry and spoken word. Which makes it feel like a lot of her rhymes are weirdly out of step with the arrangements, and somehow right in step with them.

These arrangements, much like Noname’s vocal delivery is a bit unusual, but always full of a warmth that one can easily come back to. There’s something quite satisfying about hearing songs that feature the accomplished musicianship of modern jazz and the spaced-out funkiness of neo-soul, and yet has none of the indulgences that sometimes befall those genres. Instead, at a breezy 35 minutes, this is an album that plays nicely in the background, but due to Noname’s confessional, playful lyricism, can’t help but make its way to the foreground.

Favorite Tracks: “Blaxploitation”, “Window”, “Montego Bae”