By Kwase Lane, Contributor
Key Tracks: “Self”, “Don’t Forget About Me”, “Montego Bae”
After a two-year-long hiatus, Chicago native Noname has finally graced the public with another peek into her headspace. If Telefone was Noname planting a sapling in the field that is the rap game, then Room 25 is the beautiful sequoia that has taken root after years of careful tending. This record demonstrates a quiet reverence for the topics discussed, which her initial mixtape lacked. Her lyrics and magnificent instrumentation project the image of a woman who’s more mature, but is still somehow just as lost in the world. Despite this, Noname carries on undeterred, cocky and curious about what this new realm has in store.
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In “Self”, the album’s initial track, soulful vocals peppered with soothing piano pour over top of a steady drumbeat and ease listeners into the auditory experience. It’s not unlike one finding their way home before they had time to realize they were lost. Phoelix’s production is stunning and could easily stand on its own, but this is Noname’s show. The track is only two verses long; even so, she makes amazing use of it. Her cadence and meter are dead on and supremely pleasing to the ear. Every line gives the listener an itch that is ultimately scratched by its conclusion, leaving them both astounded and thankful. Noname gives it everything she’s got to clear up the misconception that “a bitch couldn’t rap” as if there aren’t ten more tracks on the album that prove she can do just that.
Noname isn’t a stranger to constructing tunes that leave her audience dewy-eyed, but “Don’t Forget About Me” takes this concept to the next level. Previously, her more somber tracks were backed by the same poppy production that her upbeat jams had, never allowing them to bear their full weight on your soul. This track opts to drop the sugary facade in favor of a deep baseline and an almost gospel-like organ that slows the listener’s heartbeat to a crawl. This gloomy confluence is not wasted, as Noname takes the opportunity to preach on topics such as death and leaving family behind. “I know my body’s fragile, know it’s made from clay / But if I have to go, I pray my soul is still eternal / And my momma don’t forget about me.” Although worrying over death and being forgotten is nothing new, her delivery allows each word to strap itself to your heart tugging you into an ocean of your own tears. Many would take lingering in the mind of a loved one for granted, but Noname’s all-knowing conviction to these words suggests those who have are fools for doing so.
Whereas “Don’t Forget About Me” conjures the sensation of drowning in sorrow, “Montego Bae” rescues the listener from this damp body and transports them to an idyllic summer wonderland. This piece’s backing is wonderfully jazzy, and Ravyn Lenae lends her vocals to further summon the illusion of a seaside dance party. Lenae’s voice tiptoes gracefully alongside the gently dipping base and percussion combo. The one time she reaches the top of her range is sonically arresting, and the band breaks their previous pattern to support in her swell. In the second verse, Noname, not one to be so easily outdone, takes center stage. For a glittering forty seconds, everything else becomes an afterthought as Noname injects the song with a hardy confidence that only she could muster. The punchiness of her lyrics results in what feels like a playful sparring match between her and the supporting instrumentation. How could anyone resist the call of “Montego Bae” after hearing this duo’s aural collage of longing and escape?
Room 25 is a masterpiece that not only captures the highs and lows of life, but also the middle moments that exist in between. The album serves as a luxurious suite for Noname and her audience to lay about. All the while, she fills the air with the goings on of her life away from the microphone. This project has a spectacularly intimate feel that ensures that the emotion behind each word flies true and hits its mark. Noname doesn’t overstay her welcome in this space and is gone just as quickly as she appeared. Even still, you are better for her visit; and on the off chance you aren’t, I’m willing to bet you’ll still be happy she came.