I honestly don’t know where or how to begin explaining how much I love Noname’s sound. The Chicago native’s most notable features came from her collaborations with other Chicago-ans, Chance the Rapper and Mick Jenkins. Last year she released her own body of work, ‘Telefone’, and it was candy to my ears. Noname’s incalculable flow had a field day across this 10 track mixtape and brought some dope artists along for the fun as well.
Putting all of the big artist politics and super-stardom aside, this was hands down the best tape of last year.
^ Don’t freak out^ I know I just made a big statement and I don’t need any bees or anchors plaguing my social media accounts. There were a lot of great mainstream albums that were released in 2016, but this tape was just outside of it’s class, in my opinion. It showed how great artists are everywhere and we can find gold just by digging past the features. I can play ‘Telefone’ forwards, backwards, and sideways while loving every minute of it, so I won’t even try to rank these songs or pick my favorites. I’m going to try to explain the things I love about this album. The emotions that I connect to when I listen.
One of the themes that is heavy throughout ‘Telefone’ is death, which is visually represented by the skull sitting atop the young girl’s head on the cover. Sonically, many of the songs like, ‘Casket Pretty’, ‘Bye Bye Baby’, and ‘Shadow Man’ discuss death as their main theme, but each song has a different story to tell. The morbid theme takes on a new life on each song and the ride is amazing.
On ‘Yesterday’, she handles her emotions and memories after her grandmother passed away. Opening the song, she tells us about the influence her granny had on her and how that serves as motivation instead of being motivated by the perks that can come from being in the spotlight. We are always told to celebrate life after people are gone, but grieving is a process that we all need before we can see the silver lining.
She even spends some of her time dancing with death during ‘Shadow Man’ and the memories she’ll leave behind with the people in her life; something that we should all spend a little more time with honestly. I mean, how often do you reflect on yourself and the impact you’re making on those around you? Now think about what are some of the things you would change or do differently for different reading of your obituary.
Rest in Peace Brother Mike:
Brother Mike was a mentor to youth who used music and poetry as his vehicle to connect at the Harold Washington Library. His heavy influence on Chicago’s Southside and his mentorship has groomed some amazing artists from Chicago before his untimely passing. Chance the Rapper, Noname, and Mick Jenkins just to name few. If you don’t know who Mick Jenkins, please check out ‘The Healing Component’.
I love how real Noname’s stories are because these are still everyday life problems that exist. Like how she says a little prayer that her friends make it home, in ‘Casket Pretty’, because we all know how things can take an unexpected left. This makes me think of how I fear for some of my brothers back in my happy city, Indianapolis. It brings back that feeling I have when I hear about a homicide back home, and how I fear that it’s someone that I know. It reminds me not only to pray about my friends, but to stay in touch with them, so I can give them the flowers while they can still smell them. A large part of grievance that people deal with after someone is gone is the times that they missed out on to connect.
Let me ask you, what’s Freedom to you?
This song is pure joy. This song makes me want to dance. It makes me want to drop every worry that I have. It helped me define my freedom. It can help you define yours. Noname starts this song with her own intentions for how it will, but she loses that intention along the way and finds something else. Throughout this song she continues to question what this song is about, much like how we question ourselves after we start out on our own endeavors. The biggest lesson this song teaches is that you have to find your own freedom. Sure there are people or experiences that can lead you in the right direction, but ultimately you have to make that choice.
Nina Simone explains freedom best after she was asked what’s free to her?
“Just a feeling… It’s just a feeling. It’s like how do you tell somebody how it feels to be in love? How are you going to tell anybody who has not been in love how it feels to be in love? You cannot do it to save your life. You can describe things, but you can’t tell them.”
You define your own happiness. Your definition of happiness will be different, so don’t feel like you have to explain or defend the things that make you happy because not everyone will understand or agree. This is really a key to life and one of the things I’ve learned while being single because I’ve had to find happiness on my own instead of relying on the feeling someone else brings me when they’re around. A lesson that everyone can benefit from.
‘Reality Check’ is one of those songs that helps you through those tough times. A song that reminds me so much of the poem, Our Deepest Fear by Marianne Williamson, because it gives us all of the reasons why we’re destined for greatness. It tells us why we shouldn’t ourselves or our abilities. Through the entirety of the song, Noname is constantly neglecting to answer the door when opportunity knocks because she has other things going on that are keeping her from answering. Really she’s too worried about her preparation or what she will do once she takes that opportunity. Her fear of succeeding beyond measure is greater than her fear of failing, so she continuously practices self sabotage. A great quote I read a few weeks ago really put opportunity and progression into perspective for me.
“Don’t wait until everything is just right. It will never be perfect.
There will always be challenges, obstacles and less than perfect conditions. So what. Get started now. With each step you take, you will grow stronger and stronger, more and more skilled, more and more self-confident and more and more successful.” — Mark Victor Hansen
One of the great things about opportunity is that you have already done the work and shown that you have the skills to reap the rewards. Why not collect on what’s owed you? Of course, you want to have a plan, but don’t stress about what comes next. We’re all working to build our perfect life or career or family, and for that to happen we must take opportunities. One of the biggest lessons I’m learning is that you should go out and do the thing that scares you most. That is likely the thing that you are extremely passionate about and it will help develop you in ways you couldn’t even imagine. Even if it makes your entire body shudder when you think about it, just take a few deep breaths and figure out how to START it. Any work towards your goal is something to be celebrated.
As you can see, this mixtape has kind of served as my “audio bible” because of how much it has taught me/made me realize. It’s also just one of those things that can instantly provide a pick me up or a give me nice start to my day. If you haven’t already checked this out, then I definitely recommend you play it and tell me what you take away from ‘Telefone’