Noname Credit: courtesy the artist

Capping off a year in which she self-released her critically acclaimed sophomore LP, Room 25, Chicago rapper and poet Noname is set to close out 2018 with three consecutive hometown performances. Born Fatimah Nyeema Warner, the Bronzeville native went by Noname Gypsy before settling on her current nom de plume, under which she dropped her 2016 mixtape of hip-hop-infused neosoul, Telefone. Room 25 maintains the same upbeat, melodic vibes as that debut, and it showcases Noname’s evolution as an artist, with poignant commentary on racial and sociopolitical subjects, vividly sexual lyrics, and beautiful live instrumentation and string arrangements. After a soulful wordless intro on “Self,” the album turns to address living while black in America on “Blaxploitation” and “Prayer Song.” The former speaks to stereotypes of blackness and the hypocrisy of living out and preying on those stereotypes (with a jab at Hillary Clinton for “masquerading the system”), while the latter indicts the police violence plaguing the black community using the imagined voice of an officer: “Put your hands behind your back, ante up all your crack, bitch / I seen a cell phone on the dash, could’ve sworn it’s a gun / I ain’t see a toddler in the back after firing seven shots / A demon ’bout to get me, he watching me kill his mom.” On “Window,” though, Noname gets personal, baring her soul about an empty relationship: “I knew you never love me / But I fucked you anyway / I guess a bitch like to gamble / I guess a bitch like to lonely.” Noname’s lyrical nimbleness and the thematic substantiveness of her songs, and the dexterity of her exceptional backing band, combine to make her one of most unique voices to emerge in hip-hop in a while.   v