Caramel-Melancholy Returns on Noname’s 'Room 25'
Two years after her debut album, Telefone, Noname has released her highly-anticipated second LP, inextricably showcasing her fluency in prose and musicianship. Her talent is undeniable; if you’re familiar with Telefone, you’ll know this Chicago-born rapper has a firm grasp on the power of her poetry.
Room 25 starts with a soulful, contemplative track titled “Self”, lamenting on the facts of life, divorce, under-seasoned chicken – she goads listeners, confidently rapping that her “pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism”. Blatancy is Noname’s strong suit, but it’s never been expressed like this. What first drew me to Noname’s music was her striking innocence, an almost angelic purity that separated her from most rappers. She’d rap about her homegrown humility and reminisce on childhood memories of eating ice cream on her front porch. And now, so blatantly throughout Room 25, she explores her black identity more boldly in “Blaxploitation” and “Prayer Song”, and reflects on her budding sexuality with more fervor in “Window”, an unexpected but welcome evolution of her musical repertoire.
While Telefone had a more kiddy sound – one that was joyfully vacant but still snappy and bright, which you can still hear in the catchy beats of “Ace”, featuring Saba and Smino – Room 25 has a more grown-up feel, characterized by complex jazz beats that sound less like a metaphorical playground and more like a late-night jazz club decorated with glass ash trays and blue velour. The wonderful fusion of her caramel-melancholy voice and the mature musicianship push her contemplative agenda further. “Don’t Forget About Me” is a stirring meditation on loneliness and death, which is a theme she’s touched on before, but the addition of jazz takes it to a new level. Telefone felt like a young adult’s rose-colored observation and denial of the emptiness of the world; Room 25, on the other hand, is a peaceful acknowledgment.
Noname’s newfound, 20-something wisdom is the reason this album shines. She contemplates the ups and downs, the monotonous and the unchanging, the oasis in light of the wreckage. For only her second album, her precise delivery and multifaceted themes indicate that Noname didn’t just have a bout of beginner’s luck. In her own words, “Y’all really thought a bitch couldn’t rap, huh?” To answer that: we all knew she would shine from the very start.