When it comes to independent hip hop, Chicago is fast becoming the centre of the world. Audacious, free of bling-bling clichés, and completely independent from commercial interference, the local scene has produced a stream of quality artists such as Chance the Rapper, Mick Jenkins, Taylor Bennett, Noname, and Saba.
“Chicago has a lot of talent,” Saba recently told the magazine Highsnobiety. “In Chicago right now, there is a competitive community, but more important than that there’s a collaborative community.” In that spirit, Noname’s flow has been connecting the dots between Chicago’s different rising stars.
The rapper’s voice, which has featured on albums by Chance the Rapper, Mick Jenkins, and Saba, could be described as somewhere between soul and jazz with a cosmic dimension. Born and raised in Bronzeville, a neighbourhood in the south of the city, Fatimah Nyeema Warner (the artist’s real name) developed a passion for rap watching episodes of Def Poetry Jam, a TV series presented by her friend Mos Def.
Fascinated by poetry and spoken word, she started going to clubs, cafes, and other spaces frequented by fellow lovers of rap. There, she had some defining encounters. In the summer of 2016, Noname released Telefone. The ten tracks on that first mixtape reveal the many talents of the artist, who shares similarities with Lauryn Hill, Solange, and Erykah Badu.
Popular worldwide, Noname nonetheless keeps a low profile. She carefully avoids exposing herself on social media or opening up during her rare interviews.Last year, the arrival of the album Room 25 confirmed the rapper’s enormous potential. With a way with words and great skill with a microphone, Noname’s brand of hip hop contains elements of jazz, soul, and R&B.
Recorded using her own funds, the eleven tracks on the album also express the artistic independence of someone who is thirsty for freedom. “I’m not even a control freak, I just don’t like having to ask anyone for anything in terms of finances,” she said recently in an exclusive interview with the music magazine The Fader. “I don’t like having to wait for someone to approve where I can get my idea off. Like, if I want to make an album and I want an orchestra, I’m gonna figure out how to do that. I don’t want to wait around for people to greenlight my creativity.”
Headstrong, Noname is also highly politically engaged. In “Song 31”, her most recent single, she rails against industrial farming and highlights the importance of African-American representation in the media and in the US government. All of which has solidified her reputation for good sense and a groove that’s out of the ordinary.
NONAME 2/4, Botanique