Maybe it’s reading into things too much to say that Fatimah Warner attains a sense of urgency on her second Noname album due to financial pressure, but the project was made in LA–a new move for the Chicago-born talent–in a month–after two years of praise of the potential shown on “Telefone”–with her family back home in mind and she sounds ON FIRE. Sure, Noname is of the warm, low-key jazz rap breed, but in comparison to her debut’s haze, here the young rapper sounds untouchable with a newfound sense of confidence making for a jam packed 35 minutes that’ll stick to you like glue.
The energy of Room 25 is encapsulated in its intro track. After the relatively standard pillow of vocals sets in, Warner ponders why her listeners might be tuning in, suggesting a late night drive, “religion, Kanye, bitches” but she doesn’t care: “Nah, this is for me.”
The sonic shifts of the record haven’t completely set in yet, but the lyricism is sharper, seeing the rapper address both well meaning fans and those who weren’t on board for the first record. Although Noname wields her spoken-word background to paint vivid tales and address socially minded issues, as she’s mentioned in interviews, she doesn’t necessarily want her work to be pitted against other rappers, in particular women, who are more overtly sexual in their work. As she says in her recent FADER profile: “A lot of my fans… I think they like me because they think I’m the anti-Cardi B. I’m not.”
So, when she says a line like “My pussy wrote a paper on colonialism in conversation with a marginal system in love with Jesus” she captures both the braggadocios sexual energy of the likes of Lil Kim or Cardi B and the more focused ‘conscious’ point about society in relation to her race. And, again, she’s just saying things that are on her mind, Warner doesn’t want to be FOR anyone other than herself.
That energy of those first 90 seconds never lets up leading to highlights such as the punchy, bass-heavy follow-up Blaxploitation, which highlights Warner’s sense of humor over a more blazing sonic territory: “Keep the hot sauce in her purse and she be real, real blacky/Just like a Hillary Clinton, who masqueraded the system.” Prayer Song sees hushed tones, but powerful raps that glance at the contradicting stereotypes of black masculinity: “why or why my dick gettin’ bigger this violence turns me on.” And, of course, the Chicago posse cut of the moment “Ace” featuring words from Smino & Saba and a chorus of “fuck is you sayin?”
Even at only 35 minutes, its hard to distill down the album into one highlight reel. Without ever over stepping her bounds, Noname showcases wit and brilliance both sonically and lyrically, completely living up to the standard set by her previous work.