While y’all are still pressed over Frank Ocean and this album that will never happen dropped on August 20th, NoName has finally arrived with her debut mixtape “Telefone”.
Fatimah Warner a.k.a. NoName, once called NoName Gypsy but later dropped the latter half of her name out of respect to Romani people, made waves back in 2013 on the track “Lost” which was on Chance the Rapper’s premiere studio album “Acid Rap”. The Chicago rapper since then has since then appeared on numerous collaborations with Chance, Mick Jenkins, & Jesse Boykins the III. I was particularly sold on NoName after her track with Chance called “Israel”, which if you haven’t listened by now, you are very welcome. I truly would say NoName is in a league of her own because she does not try to overcompensate like some rappers do, she doesn’t try to do anything. NoName just delivers. She has maintained a complete sense of self throughout all the track she’s featured on and “Telefone” is no different.
On this 10-track mixtape, NoName reveals herself to be a smart, down-to-earth, really personable human that I would love to be friends with. Track one begins with “Yesterday”. This track is very successful at introducing who NoName is as a person: she knows the money and fame cannot truly make her happy. She dreams of buying her grandma a mansion. She isn’t interested in dress codes: “Me only wearing tennis shoes to / clubs with dress codes / cause fuck they clubs”. She talks about searching Twitter for “something holier than Black Death” which is a reference to the unwarranted and systematic murders of Black and Brown people by the police, but also references the plague which occurred in the Dark Ages. In this way, NoName categorizes these unfair murders as a disease that plagues Black people. She pays homage to Brother Mike, who facilitated open mics that NoName, Chance, and numerous of Chicago youths attended.
Track 3, Diddy Bop, alludes to the Chicago dance style but also brings in a wave of nostalgia as NoName juxtaposes memories of nights of drinking, being young enough to get your ass beat by ya moms, and also when B2K was the heartthrob of their time against the backdrop of life growing up in Chicago. During the hook, Cam O’bi talks about “stars in my pocket / dreaming of making my hood glow” a novel “Stars in my Pocket Like Grains of Sand” by Samuel R. Delany.
One of the most important tracks on the tape is “Casket Pretty” in which NoName speaks about the dangerous socio-political terrain th’at is Chicago: “All of my niggas is casket pretty / Ain’t no one safe in this happy city / I hope you make it home / I hope to God that my tele’ don’t ring”. The line further adds another layer to the significance of the title.
Instantly the heaviest track is “Bye Bye Baby” in which NoName admits to terminating a pregnancy and missing the baby that she let go. Now, for me, I missed this the first and second time listening but after the third time and catching what NoName is really talking about, it’s an extremely hard pill to swallow. I’m grateful for NoName bravery as well as trusting us with these intimate parts of herself and of her life.
The very title of the project “Telefone” seems to denote that is meant to be an intimate conversation between the rapper and her fans. Telefone is an intimate space of nostalgia and redemption. Telefone is an intimate space of love and personal evolution.
Overall, it took a minute for me to be in love with this project as I am. The production is lovely and wistful. NoName plays to her strengths, yet these exposes where she is lacking. Her voice often comes off as monotone, often lacking enthusiasm or range. While this goes on throughout the project, her clever lyrics seem to balance the lack of vocal diversity. There are spots in which I felt the mixtape could afford to be more dynamic sonically, yet the fact that each track is jazzy, soulful, dreamy is a testament to how NoName is very aware of what compliment her sound. No matter how you dice it, NoName is still very much growing in her sound and presence, but from what we have seen from the artist, she is not doubt a promising new voice in hip-hop.
Final Rating: 4.5/5