On Sept. 14, Noname released her highly anticipated debut studio album, “Room 25.” This comes as the follow-up to her 2016 mixtape, “Telefone,” which was met with critical acclaim and considered to be one of the best projects of that year. This time around, Noname has grown and is looking to show that growth through this album.
The album opens with tracks “Self,” “Blaxploitation” and “Prayer Song,” the latter featuring Adam Ness. While all three songs feature soulful instrumentals, Noname is boisterous. These tracks all contain references to race and politics, with “Self” briefly mentioning subjects such as the Reagan administration and Kanye West, who has become more political in 2018.
“Blaxploitation” and “Prayer Song” have more blatant references to the topics. The song title “Blaxploitation” comes directly from the film genre and discusses many black stereotypes, whereas “Prayer Song” talks about the fatal shooting of Philando Castile in 2016 in its second verse.
Noname also gets rather personal about her romantic life, something that plays a pivotal role on the album. “Window,” featuring Phoelix, discusses a man she once loved, but knew that he didn’t feel the same. She references his life by saying, “But you struggling to love yourself, believe me that’s karma,” but doesn’t act completely negative toward him by adding, “Everything is everything just know that I love you,” at the end of the second verse.
She then takes it back a few tracks later with “Montego Bae,” which features Ravyn Lenae. Both artists talk about falling in love, with Lenae talking about falling in love in the actual city of Montego Bay and Noname’s love going to a man of Jamaican descent. This track has more of an upbeat message regarding romance than “Window,” which was an overall self-reflection of a one-sided relationship.
Noname also talks about her new fame, mentioning her move from her hometown of Chicago to Los Angeles many times throughout the album. This is most prominent on “Don’t Forget About Me.” This song finds Noname reflecting on her influence and life in general. On the hook, she hopes to be remembered by her family if something were to happen to her, even though she is not home with them anymore.
The album contains many short tracks where Noname spits only a single verse. Tracks like “Regal,” “With You” and “Part Of Me,” the longest of these three tracks with guest appearances from Phoelix and Benjamin Earl Turner, all have straight-to-the-point raps by Noname. This is a Noname trademark and helps with the flow of the album.
The definite highlight of “Room 25” is “Ace.” The track not only has Noname, but Smino and Saba showcasing their rapping abilities. Saba and Noname both talk about their statuses as independent artists with Noname claiming “Room 25, the best album that’s coming out,” whereas record labels have artists releasing albums “just doing it for the clout.” Saba takes similar approach early in his verse saying, “They didn’t figure it out in 2012 so…we can drop all our albums ourselves.”
The album closes with “No Name,” which essentially lists the reasons why she chose her stage name. She also talks about how her life has changed at the age of 25 — hence why the album is called “Room 25.”
When all is said and done we will remember “Room 25” as a career highlight for Noname. The production was great with funk- and jazz-influenced beats that match the calm and monotone demeanor of Noname’s voice. The verses are incredibly constructed and contain many subtle references to things that are not only affecting Noname, but everyday people. The only true negative is that the album is only 35 minutes long, and by the time “No Name” is over you’re left wanting more from the emcee.
Noname has grown incredibly since her appearance on Chance The Rapper’s breakout mixtape, “Acid Rap.” She has become her own artist and improved on her body of work with a unique blend of spoken word and rap. “Room 25” is easily the best rap album of the year so far.