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Rapper Noname addresses tough topics in her music

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(Photographer/Noname album art)

(Photographer/Noname album art)

(Photographer/Noname album art)

Jaylene Lopez, Contributor

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Don’t call her the female version of anyone.

It takes guts to be a woman in hip-hop. Fatimah Warner, known as Noname, does not shy away from introducing topics like poverty, inequality and police brutality. They are topics that typically aren’t addressed in songs played on the radio by popular male rappers.

In the mainstream media, men dominate the hip-hop scene with verses about parading women around as trophies and sex objects. Warner doesn’t buy into that. Instead, she takes a stand through her own style combining aspects of soul, chillwave and vivid lyricism, which contribute to the uniqueness of her sound.

Noname, formerly known as Noname Gypsy, has come a long way since she started out. Growing up in a neighborhood in Chicago, Warner started her career as a slam poet. She began to freestyle rap after placing third at the “Louder Than A Bomb” poetry competition. She participated in the YOUMedia project, an association that helps young artists develop their talents by allowing them to collaborate together on creative projects and receive help from mentors.  

During the YOUMedia project, Warner met Chancellor Bennett, now known as Chance the Rapper. They’ve worked together and some even call her the female version of Chance. While the two musicians share similarities in style and subject matter, Noname has her own identity as an artist and has made significant contributions to the world of hip-hop as an individual.

While the two musicians share similarities in style and subject matter, Noname has her own identity as an artist and has made significant contributions to the world of hip-hop as an individual.

In 2013, she gained attention when she was featured on Chance The Rapper’s mixtape, “Acid Rap.” The two later collaborated on “Surf,” an album by Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment, featuring artists like J.Cole and Saba. Additionally, she was featured on Mick Jenkin’s “The Water[s].”

While contributing to other mixtapes, she released socially-conscious track “Sunday Morning.” The track is meant to highlight the violence that constantly occurs in poor, black neighborhoods and the lack of attentiveness by police in those areas.

        “Another brown boy down

        Another mother crying cause another brown boy found

        And all you wanna do is smoke weed

        And write songs

        Bang bang

        Sound like violins

        Poverty was made to door frame all the violence

        Knock knock and guess who’s not there

        The police

        And guess who don’t care

        The people”

Another track “Mary Jane Love” depicts Noname’s struggle with poverty and drugs.

       “I break the law, I smoke my weed

        I had to stop cause I hate to tweak

        Bet next week I’mma do it again”

On July 31, 2016, she dropped her own mixtape, titled “Telefone,” shrouded in jazz influences and faded glo-fi. It explores her personal perspective of being a black woman. From the dark corners of reality, she reveals herself through wispy piano and synth with help from collaborators Chance the Rapper, Saba and Mick Jenkin.

Noname asks herself, “Who gon’ remember me?”

“Don’t let them cops get you,” she warns, shedding light on the horrors of police brutality.

The album has received positive reviews from publications including Pitchfork, which called the work “rich” and “somber.” Rolling Stone hailed Noname’s music as “some of the year’s most thought-provoking hip-hop.” Vice Magazine’s Noisey said that the album “makes the world a better place.”

Noname’s following has grown significantly since being featured on Chance the Rapper’s mixtape. When “Telefone” was released it was welcomed by her fans, including her 61,383 Twitter followers, 83,481 Soundcloud followers and her 284,836 monthly listeners on Spotify.

In coming months, Noname will tour the U.S. and Europe.

Email Jaylene at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @JayleneLopez_.

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The digital-first, student-run magazine of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Journalism Department
Rapper Noname addresses tough topics in her music