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SOMETHING HOLIER THAN BLACK DEATH

In Telefone, Noname is mourning. In Telefone, Noname is praying them -- her dear ones -- the listener too, us, alive. In Telefone, Noname is contagiously joyful. To the moon.
I first came to Noname after googling an incantation that says "Rihanna is made of feather dust and matches." Of course! The google results showed that the spell gets better because the incantation continues to say "And everybody wants to touch the fire." Rihanna is exactly the sort of woman men would view as a tourist attraction, a thrill ride -- not a person with needs and evolving ideals. And in the end, they would say "but..." holding her responsible for their fickle ideas.

i. Death
On my first listen of Telefone, the lyric that stood out the most, left me winded because checking twitter seems so mundane but, many times, twitter has saved me. But, even more potent, is that she's purposefully looking for something specific. Something holier than death. Confirmation of life.
In her wrecking, sprawling poem, "First Writing Since," the poet and activist Suheir Hammad, woman, Palestinian, of Brooklyn, writes "anyone hearing this is breathing. Maybe hurting but breathing for sure. [...] We've got to carry each other now." And to me, both Hammad and Noname are doing the same thing. 
For me, the carrying each other is in the relief of going online and catching my beloved siblings tweeting "whew, I thought I was gone there" after a bad turn of mental health. It's laughing from my gut. It's being in my sister's presence on most days, especially the extreme ones.

ii. Prayer
"forever and a day, we live forever"
In a now-deleted tumblr post (I moved accounts and didn't copy the post as I've been doing since 2011, respek my history of self-sabotage) and on this update from last June, I tried to confront and eulogise the assertion that black people do not end where the cruelty of this world puts us. I drew from my experiences of being made bereft of people and their lingering tastes in everything I touch. Sometimes, when I'm deep in the moment, memory and the present blur and I turn to tell someone who is dead about a thing. Sometimes, I laugh and my mother spills out.

In making these eulogies, I crawled into the poet Safia Elhillo's "self-portrait with a yellow dress" in which she writes: We are born to a body dressed in black & Do not wear it to a funeral we live forever

iii Mantra 
"Dance with me i know i'm free"

iv. No fear!
“don’t grow up too soon, don’t blow the candles out, don’t let them cops get you”
The innocence of black children has been made something of a myth in this culture and for Noname to be here saying don’t let them make you “grown” means the world. Tamir Rice was 13.

It took me many months of listening to the project to finally get into Shadow Man, the closing track of Telefone and now that I have I can’t unhear it. Even in surrender -- I’m not sure that’s the word to use but stay with me -- Noname stays black as fuck and defiant as fuck. Live as hard as you can and with as much integrity as you can muster and, in the words of Safia Elhillo, when they come for you, go out as black and as joyous as ever.

v. Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson built so much of this. Bow down and honour black women.

vi. Tenderness
I can’t remember what I’d seen but on 30 April 2017, I tweeted “We’re black all over. It’s so comforting” and meant it. It has been one of the constant joys of being online for me threads upon threads of black people saying “wait, you’re this black too?”

I found tenderness in the entirety of Telefone but Diddy Bop has always had me thinking about the things that sound and feel and taste like my childhood and my loved ones who are not here anymore. It’s a cosy capsule to crawl in, even when the childhood memory is the fact that a slipper would find my behind if I was being bad.


Do you know what's holier than black death? Black joy.




Holy things:
Grandmother, God, drugs, death, love, Ms Simone.

Image by Aleksandra Podburtnaja for Wonderland Magazine