Noname dropped one of her cheekiest lyrics from her 2018 debut studio album, Room 25, less than a minute into her sold-out concert at Union Transfer on Saturday night.
“Y’all really thought a bitch couldn’t rap, huh?” The crowd roared, clearly disagreeing, as the 27-year-old Chicago rapper danced across the stage in a pair of yellow plaid pants and white All-Stars during her opening track, “Self.”
Noname was, of course, referring to the naysayers who paid her no attention because her style of rap is so different from those of the rappers whom fans are more accustomed to seeing: ostentatious and full of braggadocio.
In contrast, Noname raps about such things as her own hypocrisy in supporting the LGBTQ community while also patronizing Chick-fil-A, which has donated to anti-gay causes, how the Trump administration keeps her up at night, and not wanting to be forgotten by her family. Those songs are on Room 25, an album written during the two years she spent living out of hotel rooms after the release of her critically acclaimed neo-soul mix tape, Telefone, in 2016. Deeply loyal to the Chicago rap scene despite moving to Los Angeles, she works only with her friends. (Noname sprang onto the radar of rap fans when she made an appearance on Chance the Rapper’s 2013 mix tape, Acid Rap.) Her Instagram has only 15 posts, and her handle is “nonamehiding.”
All of this has contributed to her ability to fly under the radar, despite being regarded as one of the most dynamic and talented rappers out there today.
When Noname raps, her flow is poetic, steady and without the shouting we’ve come to expect from rap. It feels as if she is speaking to you, and you alone, about her life experiences. Her voice weaves in and around complicated verses, as quiet as an almost-whisper at times and rising buoyantly during more upbeat moments.
But the highlights of the show came when Noname allowed her band and backup singers to step into the spotlight, such as during “Ace,” her resplendent collaboration with two other Chicago rap darlings, Saba and Smino, and “Window,” a song about a brief, intense relationship with someone who wasn’t right for her.
Noname kept her set short at around 40 minutes, but came back out for an encore after the crowd chanted her name for two minutes straight after she left the stage.
“I shall oblige to the rules of the encore,” she said with a chuckle, before delivering “Shadow Man,” a deep cut from Telefone.