An Introduction To Rapper-Poet, Noname, Another Shining Talent Coming Out of Chicago


Everything Is Everything: Noname on the Come Up

The vibes of Noname exist somewhere between rare and familiar. Her music lets the world know how much she values family, friendship and a wise-spirited relationship with self. When it comes to spitting rhythmic truths, Noname tells us everything is everything, writing in all the spaces between police violence in Chicago, Black womanhood and falling in love with both people and conversations.

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In 2013, Chance the Rapper gave Hip-Hop his sophomore hit tape, Acid Rap, in which Noname delivered an epic verse on druggy love story, “Lost.” The following year, she featured on “Comfortable,” a winning cut off of Mick Jenkins’ breakout, The Water[s]. After three years of life experience and organizing ideas and resources, Noname released her premier project Telefone in July 2016. The mixtape received high praise from many big music critics, including Pitchfork, who ranked Telefone #27 in their 50 Best Albums of 2016. If there’s anything more to be said about the come-up of independent artists in Chicago, make sure Noname is on the list.


Born Fatimah Warner in Bronzeville, Chicago, Noname was raised by her Grandmother until she was fourteen years old. By some worldly premonition, Fatimah’s mother owned a bookstore and gave life to a poet. In her teen years, Noname’s spoken word was celebrated by Chicago Youth Poetry Festival founder, Kevin Coval and stunning Black visual artist and writer Krista Franklin. It wasn’t until she was eighteen that Noname transitioned from poetry to rapping. She credits the ease in change-up to YOUMedia, a learning and teaching space hosted out of the Chicago Public Library in which young visual artists, writers, rappers, dancers, etc., come together to connect and collab. It was through YOUMedia that Noname met Chance, and began to develop relationships with producers Cam O’bi, Phoelix and Saba.


Noname and her producers posted up in a Los Angeles Airbnb to put together Telefone. In interviews with The Fader, The Chicago Tribune and The New York Times, Noname credits much of her process to maintaining genuine friendships with people who challenge her to grow and succeed. She refers to all her features, producers, collaborators and mixers as the homies, and although she takes pride in being lowkey, Noname is happy to support her family and her communities. There is a solid group of young Chicago artists committed to building family and Noname believes in the power it gives her art.


Telefone, the 25 year old rapper-poet has explained, is about conversations. Listeners gather in the golden sunniness of the beat and stay for the melancholy and depthy content. Opening with “Yesterday,” Noname reminisces on her Grandmother’s and her mentor’s death, rapping about the little things she needs to save her soul. The tape moves on to “Sunny Duet” with theMIND, a love song about dreams and sacrifice, and “Diddy Bop” a love song featuring Atlanta youngin’ Raury, about Noname’s childhood in Bronzeville, kickin’ it on the porch wearing FUBU and eating ice cream in the summer. “Freedom Interlude” was a single released a few months before the full tape, and the track samples an interview with Nina Simone, who Noname cites, along with Stevie Wonder and writers Toni Morrison and James Baldwin, to be some of her favorite influences. Diving back into the theme of loss, Noname’s “Casket Pretty” explores the meaning of Black death in the US. She continues with “Bye Bye Baby,” another poignant love story between a woman who has had an abortion and her unborn baby. The tape makes a shimmering exit with the hopeful “Forever” in which Ravyn Lenae sings, “How long will it take to marry to the sunset?” and lastly with “Shadow Man” which features blkswn’s Smino.


Noname’s come-up has included a guest performance on Saturday Night Live with Chance, countless festival appearances including the Roots Picnic and Lollapolooza, as well as a recent performance with NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert.


In terms of when fans can hear more from her, Noname has expressed that she likes to take her time when creating. She is currently focusing on performing, and is touring across the US.

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Z Bell [pronouns: they] is a poet and community organizer. They graduated from Barnard College in 2015 with a B.A. in Sociology and will go on to earn their MFA in the study of Poetry. Z currently resides in their hometown, New Haven, CT. Z believes in the power of redefinition and visioning as a means towards self-love, community care and liberation. They have done justice work with the Audre Lorde Project, Black Youth Project 100 and Brooklyn Movement Center. Z is passionate about writing and music and taking care of Grandma. They spend time at local cyphers and open mics performing poetry and spitting verse. You might be surprised that Z loves fishing and rugby. You might not be surprised that Z spends a lot of time on SoundCloud. Unapologetically Black, fat, disabled, (gender)queer and still here, you’ll most likely catch them wearing big headphones and nodding in time to the latest indie hip-hop.