From Me to You: My Musical Love Letter to Noname
Managing editor Kevito Clark wanted to take time out to salute the Chicago rapper and singer, Noname, for having an unflinching and bold style.
The first time I saw Noname in person was right in my own neighborhood. Telefone was a work in progress then, and the Chicago rapper and singer was in the heart of Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn at Von King Park performing a free show for the city’s Summer Stage free concert series. Noname had stood out as a charismatic voice on Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap, and I gravitated to her rhythmic cadence, her “everything is everything” bar drop, and her story as a open mic / slam-poet champion drew me in as a former poet in my college days.
Here she is, right in front of a collection of music lovers, and you could tell that despite being passionate about the music, she was still a bit shy about publicly performing. The woman born Fatimah Nyeema Warner has been a bit of recluse since that day still. Even when I tried to get a few words with her at this year’s Roots Picnic, she was still unphased by the love and attention she was getting from those who loved her style and skills. And I believe that was the root of where my musical love for Noname came from: she is relentless to hold on to who she truly is.
When Telefone dropped, it came right on the heels of fellow Chicagoan, Jamila Woods, and her otherworldly cool project, HEAVN. The two have worked together and are close friends who helped to cement #BlackGirlMagic in a major way for a populace of people who felt that that sort of thing was lacking. I knew that she was a deep thinker, but when she delved into subjects like poverty, death, abortion and the stress and worry that lingers when police brutality threatens yours and your loved ones lives, man, I found someone who’s honestly sounds like church bells from heaven.
Telefone and its architect, Noname, gave a level of vulnerability that you don’t find in today’s stars. Hell, Noname probably wouldn’t even consider herself that, as hearing her debunk the idea of being rich and famous equals happiness is akin to Malcolm X talking about the plight and struggles of the black person in America. It is food for your soul and can help to overcome D’evils that exist and are rooted well within this country. Loving Noname and her project to me means that you are an advocate for pushing good, light and truth in a dark world. Noname, who learned these lessons the hard way after the deaths of her grandmother and her mentor Brother Mike, has a real focus that isn’t to be sidetracked by fame, famous people or highfalutin magazine covers.
With a mission seemingly placed upon her heart from the Creator, Noname, to me, has a deep joy despite not looking for a silver lining in her songs. On “Reality Check,” that song always wells me up in my chest cavity because I, too, identify with some of the fears that comes along with completing a project or seizing an opportunity. Am I good enough to actually do this? Will people really read what I’m writing? Are the things that I want to share actually worth doing? Knowing that all these thoughts probably go through all of our minds from time to time, it is a relief to know someone like Noname not only examines those feelings but conquers them through self-actualization.
From “Casket Pretty” to “Bye Bye Baby” to even her special guest verse with Chano on “Isreal,” Noname is a beautiful soul, armed to the teeth with a surefooted, unapologetic cadence that invites the listener (i.e. me) to contemplate the subjects she discusses. It is not easy to tell the truth, and despite Noname’s shyness, her music embraces my ears and soul like a longtime friend. To Noname, Fatimah, I personally say thank you from the bottom of my heart for lighting the path with your powerful words, sharing stories from your history unabashedly and glowing like the beautiful black woman you are.
Keep on keeping on, and don’t stop for no one.