Fatima Nyeema Warner is not a rapper. She is a true poet who has taken the shape of a rapper. Plain and simple. Mainly going by her stage name, Noname, Warner has flows and rhymes that just catch your attention. Obviously, she is a solid hip-hop artist and a damn good one at that, but with her sophomore project, we are now seeing even more poetry. A product of Chance the Rapper’s Chicago movement, Noname has blossomed into more than a soulful sample with Room 25.
She starts out the first track with possible one of the best ways possible to start an album.
“Maybe this the album you listen to in your car
When you driving home late at night
Really questioning every god, religion, Kayne, bitches”
The thing is…she is not wrong. This project is perfect for so many occasions: driving on a rainy day, cooking a big breakfast for a loved one on a Sunday morning, or just relaxing and trying to study for a big test. A huge part of the versatile sound is Noname’s vocal element. When she raps, it feels as if there is this warm embrace surrounding you with her sweet, almost innocent sounding voice. But what makes her particularly special is her flows. They are unique in the fact that they aren’t always standard rap but more similar to spoken word poetry. Very few rappers do this as it is not an easy form of spoken art to master. Yet, Noname does it so gracefully that at times, even when her flow sounds strange or choppy, it just feels…right. Noname also recognizes her vocal limitations. While she plays a little with the listener on “Don’t Forget About Me” by having a more singing style on the verse, she mainly leaves it up to her features on much of the album. Smino covers it for her on “Ace,” Ravyn Lenae comes in to sing the chorus of “Montego Bae,” and Phoelix adds his vocal talents on “Window” and “Part of Me.” This self-awareness aspect only seems to add to Noname’s vocal talent on the project as she never pushes the line and hurts the sound or flow of a track.
If I was gauging this project solely of the band alone, it would be ten stars straight up. Luke Titus Sangerman is on the drums and on “Prayer Song,” I had to double check to make sure it wasn’t Questlove. He brings this style of drumming that has an almost rubato tempo at times while remaining in tune with the rest of the instruments. You never feel lost. Brian Sanborn adds to the instrumentals with his guitar and it fits perfectly with Noname’s voice. “Montego Bae” has this flirty sound coming from the guitar that works so perfectly with the island-sounding drums in the back. Matt Jones wraps up the trio of musicians on the instrumentals with his wondering compositions of string music. It truly helps bring the jazz and soul feel to the album.
Noname’s first album Telefone had a lot of issues with audio quality and it seems like Room 25 has inherited quite a few of those issues. Nothing is terrible, just at times, the vocal audio seems oddly scratchy. Other than that, the mixing is beautifully done and the album just flows. I truly wish this album was three hours long due to its smoothness and relaxing vibe throughout.
There isn’t a single song I would skip on this album. That is a fact. Every song you need to listen to at least once. You will probably have your favorites but mine are definitely “Self,” “Don’t Forget About Me,” “Ace,” and “Montego Bae.”
This album is something else. It has great raps and rhymes, beautiful accompaniment, and Noname who is a plus on her own. She brings life, happiness, and warmth on every track. In a month when you are listening to this record as you study for a midterm or are vibing out at work, just remember who put you on to Noname. It isn’t a perfect album however, Room 25 still gets a:
This is up there for my favorite album I have listened to this year. You can tell me I’m wrong all you want but you can’t deny Noname’s talent and her band’s skills.