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Noname takes down racism and Chicago politics with her satirical “Blaxploitation” video

Noname | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

It’s been a busy and successful year for Chicago rapper Noname, and to close it out she’s released her first-ever music video. The Alex Lill-directed video brings her song “Blaxploitation” to life, referencing Godzilla while addressing racial politics in her home city. In it, we watch the unfolding narrative of a black child in giant form, exploring the city streets as the headline “Chicago Under Siege: Monster Baby Must Be Stopped” flashes across the screen. Continue reading →

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Watch Noname rock a medley of songs from Room 25 on Colbert

Noname on Colbert | via twitter.com/colbertlateshow

The last time Noname was on late-night TV was two years ago, accompanying collaborator Chance The Rapper on Saturday Night Live. But last night the Chicago rapper claimed the entire stage for herself with an appearance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Backed by a full band, Noname performed a three-song medley off her flawless new album, Room 25“Blaxploitation,” “Prayer Song,” and “Don’t Forget About Me.” Any jittery nervousness that might have been evident was swept away as she fell into the rhythm of her verses, reinforcing the fact that this woman was born for the spotlight. Continue reading →

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Noname radiates grace and power on her debut album Room 25; announces Union Transfer gig

Noname | photo by Bryan Lamb | courtesy of the artist
Noname | photo by Bryan Lamb | courtesy of the artist

Chicago-born rapper Noname dropped her debut album, Room 25, on Friday. Produced by collaborator Phoelix, Room 25 builds on Noname’s origins in the open mic scene, demonstrating her passion for poetry and eloquent command of spoken word. Noname first gained exposure after appearing on Chance the Rapper’s album Coloring Book, but quickly established her own voice with 2016 mixtape Telefone, followed up with two years of international touring. She remains independent, financing her own recordings and videos.

Telefone was an introduction to Noname’s unique style, mixing jazz and R&B with intricate, run-on rap verses. In Room 25, Noname refines her craft, coming into her fully-realized self. As she’s matured, her lyrics have become more provocative, but maintain a subtle humor. She never becomes aggressive or pushy, instead radiating a quiet power with her graceful delivery. Continue reading →

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PHOTOS: Red Bull’s Three Days in Philly party with Syd, Noname, Girlpool and more

Syd | photo by Koof Ibi Umoren for WXPN

Easily one of the most well-curated musical gatherings of the fall, Red Bull’s Three Days In Philly brought an eclectic assortment of femme-forward sounds to Underground Arts and The Trocadero earlier this month.

On Thursday, October 12th, Los Angeles indie rock outfit Girlpool topped the bill at Underground Arts, with local dreamscapers The Dove and the Wolf and Queen of Jeans mixing in twinkling pop sounds with expansive rock jams. On night two, of of the leading lights of Chicago’s bustling hip-hop and poetry scene, Noname, headlined, alongside jazz-tinged Philly singer-songwriter Andrea Valle and the more folk-rock oriented Brianna Cash. Night three moved the party over to the main stage of The Trocadero, and the dynamic, impossible to pin down Syd – of The Internet and Odd Future — headlined the sold-out show, with support from Atlanta band St. Beauty and Chicago’s Ravyn Lenae.

See photos from the entire three-day festival below, care of photographer Koof Ibi Umoren of The Random Tea Sessions.
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From Noname to Pharrell, the 10th Annual Roots Picnic brings a star studded day to Festival Pier

The Roots and Pharrell at The Roots Picnic | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

This past weekend marked the 10th Anniversary of The Roots Picnic. Over the past decade, Black Thought, Questlove and the rest of the legendary Roots Crew have been curating one of the city’s biggest concerts which, since 2007, has featured acts such as A$AP Rocky, Erykah Badu, Santigold, DMX, and Anderson Paak just to name a few.

This year’s line up brought out Michael Kiwanuka, Thundercat, Kimbra, and PnB Rock for excellent performances with headlining sets from Solange and Pharrell, the latter of whom was backed by The Roots. Earlier in the day, Black Thought collaborated with DJ/producer J Period on a live mixtape, during which he brought out original Roots keyboard player Scott Storch, as well as Queensbridge hip-hop legends Mobb Deep. Rapper Lil Wayne was slated to play the festival but was removed from the lineup due to an undisclosed medical emergency. Despite that being a bit of a damper, an estimated crowd of 10,000 festivalgoers enjoyed the day-long show. Continue reading →

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Noname shines in her Philly debut at World Cafe Live

Noname | photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Noname | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

A week before the show, tickets to see Noname at World Cafe Live were being sold online for up to six times their original $15 asking price — the show had sold out months prior, and the Chicago rapper’s profile had only grown through an appearance on SNL with Chance the Rapper and acclaim for her Telefone project. To say the least, the show this Wednesday, March 1st was in demand.

Doors were at 7 p.m. and by the the time 7:15 rolled around the first four rows were spoken for. By the time that the opener, Ravyn Lenae, graced the stage 45 minutes later, the entire downstairs of World Cafe Live was abuzz with energy. Continue reading →

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The 10th annual Roots Picnic features Pharrell, Solange, Noname, Michael Kiwanuka and more

Pharrell Williams | Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

The annual Roots Picnic has been setting up shop along Penn’s Landing for a solid ten years now, and to celebrate the decade mile-marker, the lineup just announced by Black Thought, Questlove and company is indeed a massive throwdown, set to touch down at The Festival Pier at Penn’s Landing on Saturday, June 3rd.

For starters, the coveted headlining slot — a classic artist performing a set with The Roots as their backing band — goes to suave hitmaker Pharrell. Dude has no shortage of jams to incorporate, from his production days in The Neptunes and bandleading days in N.E.R.D., to chart-toping collabs with Daft Punk (“Get Lucky”) and solo jams that’ll have the entire family clapping along (“Happy”).

Also towards the top of the bill is Solange, making her second Roots Picnic appearance; she first played in 2013, with the fantastic True EP recently under her belt, and this year she has the massively acclaimed A Seat At The Table — our number two album of 2016Lil Wayne also tops the bill, and will no doubt throw down in a massive way. Continue reading →

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Just Announced: Noname will headline World Cafe Live downstairs in March

Noname | photo by Bryan Lamb | courtesy of the artist
Noname | photo by Bryan Lamb | courtesy of the artist

Chicago rapper Noname lowkey dropped one of the year’s best releases with her long-in-the-works mixtape Telefone — and if you haven’t heard it yet, that’s okay for now. You’ve got plenty of time to catch up and listen up before her headlining gig at World Cafe Live this spring.

Noname has built her name alongside like-minded MCs Saba, Jeremih and of course Chance the Rapper, all leading lights of the Windy City’s hip-hop renaissance of late. She appears on “Finish Line / Drown,” the lively penultimate track on Chance’s Coloring Book, and can also be heard on Saba’s excellent “Church / Liquor Store” from Bucket List Project. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Top 15 Albums of 2018

This is the music that moved us in 2018

In her review of Lucy Dacus’ Historian, Key writer Sarah Hojsak uses a vivid phrase that sums up both the record, as well as the emotional landscape of 2018: “desperately sad but never hopeless.”

Oh, wait, I’m sorry…would you describe your year as happy? That must be nice, good on you. For many of us, it’s not as straightforward: the toxicity of the country at this moment in history, and the various players that fuel that toxicity, has a draining effect, whether you’re a marginalized person who is in the line of fire or an empathetic soul who is distressed from afar. There’s also the let-down: the pouring of our energies into something to watch it fail, whether personal or public.

And yet we experience moments of joy throughout it all: weddings are had, families are started, a breathtaking sunset is observed from the westbound platform of the Berks Avenue el stop. And there’s music, a constant source of joy and comfort that centers our lives. Continue reading →