I still remember the first time I heard Noname (FKA Noname Gypsy). It had been a long August day at work in New York and I, along with two of my coworkers, retired to my friends Yorkville apartment to cool down. “She’s the girl from ‘Lost’ on Acid Rap,” I remember my friend saying while sparking the blunt. The opening chords to “Sunday Morning” shined through the speakers only to be replaced by blunt smoke and the smooth, laid back flow of Noname Gypsy telling us that the police ain’t there and we the people don’t care.
Since then, the 25 year old Chicago native appeared on both Surf and Coloring Book following her guest verse on Acid Rap. However, while fellow Chicagoan Chance the Rapper released project after project in the past several years, Noname has remained relatively quiet outside of these collaborations. That was the case until she finally dropped her first full length project, Telefone.
The mixtape showcases some of Chicago’s best young talent but at no point is it forgotten in its half hour runtime that Noname is the star of the show. This is best seen through three songs. First off is ‘Diddy Bop,’ which features Raury, one of XXL’s freshman class from 2015 and established musician who sings the hook and spits a pretty solid verse. This is the closest she ever comes to sharing the spotlight. Second is ‘Shadow Man,’ which closes the album and features another Chance the Rapper collaborator and accomplished Chicago MC in Saba. Saba’s verse is a testament to his growth as a rapper but it is Noname’s verse that includes the impressive line, “When I die at 27/ rappers at my funeral/ Moses wrote my name in gold/ and Kanye did the eulogy” that is stated with such laid back certainty within a longer stunning verse that ensured Saba stood a chance.
Lastly, ‘Reality Check’ is perhaps the mixtape’s finest moment. A soulful piano beat accompanies Noname, as well as two of Chicago’s best young singers Akeyna and Eryn Allen Kane. Instead of competing with Noname, the verse and hook serve to highlight Noname’s talent as an MC.
At 30 Minutes, Telefone is not a large commitment. However, the mixtape’s complete lack of filler makes it a worthy listen to any fan of rap, pot, or just good music in general. The lack of a guest verse from Chance the Rapper may come as both a surprise and disappointment to long time fans. With that being said, Telefone is proof that no more assists are needed; Noname’s debut full length is a serious contender for best rap album of the year. In a rap world dominated by 5 new Future mixtapes every month, the rise of Chicago’s first generation of Kanye disciples is refreshing. The door that Chance blew open has paved the way for the likes of Vic Mensa, Bj the Chicago Kid, and Joey Purp among many others and with Telefone, Noname makes her case to be the finest of the bunch.
Review by William Lehrer.