“Pain. I seem to have an affection, a kind of sweet-tooth for it.” - Toni Morrison, Jazz
Chicago’s Fatimah Warner is a human being before anything else. The fact that she’s also one of the most exciting new voices in rap music won’t get in the way of that. From her chosen moniker, Noname, to her conversational tone of voice when rapping and an aversion to spotlight, she’s entirely relatable to a generation of people who don’t feel comfortable “stunting for the ‘Gram” and forcing themselves outwards. She is the comforting voice that reminds us that sometimes it’s OK to not be OK.
The 25-year-old rarely does “awkward interviews”, so even the way she interrupts to make sure she knows my name before we progress into conversation, is a reminder of a very human interaction - rather than the cold, press factory that’s often built between labels, PRs, the media and well conditioned artists.
It’s the morning after her debut headline show in New York, which she downplays as “fun” and “dope” despite rave reviews from attendees online - she also characteristically omits the fact that double-platinum rapper J. Cole came through as a fan, and had his picture taken with her. “I always get nervous [before shows], I’m very anxious,” she admits, despite having found her voice live at Chicago’s YOUmedia open mic events before committing to record. “But then I’m never nervous on stage. Only an hour before.”
Her debut mixtape, 'Telefone', is a candid and open affair that offers an emotional spectrum of subject matter spanning everything from an imagined relationship between a mother and her aborted baby, to fear of police brutality. It’s not surprising then, that some of the tracks take an enormous amount of courage to deliver to an audience. “I think the most difficult song to perform, emotionally, is probably ‘Casket Pretty’,” she says, of the song where she expresses a reality in which her friends are one step away from having their lives taken by police officers. “I really love and hate performing that song.” she continues. “[Mixtape opener] ’Yesterday’ is sometimes difficult to perform. But outside of that everything is very enjoyable. Even those moments are fun in a different way, it’s more cathartic, like a healing thing.”