Taken from the Winter Issue of Wonderland.
The unsung hero you already know, rapper Noname is stepping into the limelight with her first solo tape.
Chicago native, 25-year-old Noname (aka Fatimah Warner) first appeared on the radar after her show-stealing verse on Chance the Rapper’s “Lost”. After three years of the public impatiently waiting for more, this summer she released her first mixtape, Telefone. Unsettlingly perfect, Noname looks at the melancholic world around her with childlike wonder, setting odes of everyday drug dependency and abortion to twinkling nursery rhyme melodies. Grabbing the first chance we got, we met Noname in London on her first trip overseas.
I heard about your New York show where everyone was singing back to you!
Yeah it’s crazy seeing how people across the world have received the music — never would I imagine I would be in London, in a room filled with people singing all the words too! It was kind of surreal.
I know some of the songs on Telefone aren’t about you but a lot of them are personal, were there any in particular you were scared to share?
There’s only one song that isn’t really specifically about me and that’s “Bye Bye Baby” but outside of that all the others are about me or opinions of mine about things that have happened in my life, or things that I see. One that is specifically about me and different scenarios I’ve been in is “Reality Check”, and “Yesterday” for sure. Those ones are more difficult to perform as they’re just so personal.
It feels like a lot of people have been waiting for you to put this tape out, I’m sure you’ve felt a lot of pressure. Were you hesitant to release it or did it just take three years to make?
I wasn’t really able to start making it until this past year because I knew sonically what I wanted it to be – the landscape that I was trying to create – I couldn’t do it unless I was able to get the production that I was hearing in my head. What really took the longest was finding those people who really understood my vision and who musically were exactly what I was looking for. Also, having material to write about, for me it’s a lot based around having a life and the experiences so I can have something to reflect on.
You used to write poetry, what did you write about?
Subject-wise it was pretty much the same, I typically wrote about myself and my experiences, the world around me, I’m really interested in narrative pieces. I was doing that for a while and then I started transitioning into writing music.
Was music always the plan?
No I kind of just stumbled into it, most of my early stuff, it wasn’t even like I thought it was good, I was just having fun! It wasn’t until I started performing and then people started telling me that it was good, I just thought, ‘Oh maybe it’s not so bad! Maybe I could try write another song.’ I was smoking a lot of weed, we were just free styling all the time. It was just fun.
You reference drugs a lot on the tape — do you think they limit your creativity or expand it?
I didn’t like to smoke and write, like smoking and freestyling is one thing, it’s just like a puzzle, it’s just like connecting the dots on words, that’s fun! But to sit down and try to write, it was just so stressful. I quit weed two years ago. I do reference molly in the music. I’ve never created it on molly but maybe in some ways it does push your creativity, because I’m tapping into another type of reality.
You talk about police brutality a little too — do you think music has the power to make change happen?
Yeah I think music can do that to people. I’m definitely frustrated and angry and sad. For me, writing about police brutality, this is how I’m feeling, I need to just get this out of me and off of my chest. If people listen to it and they feel compelled to go out and doing something, then that’s great, but if not, if you don’t feel compelled to go to a protest, or bail somebody out of jail or something… You’re are still feeling something… No change can happen without an emotional connection to it.
Thanks to CAMBERWELL STUDIOS