Painfully vulnerable with pounding, power-packed lyrics, Noname’s sophomore album arrived in 2018 but rather than mirror a sweet infant’s lullaby like her first, Room 25 is a diary filled with the confessions of a 27-year-old woman, formerly Noname Gypsy, but now just Noname, as she confronts her life and world.
Room 25 is jazz-meets-gospel-meets-soul with smooth guitar strums, strong basslines, and sweet ooos from a choir in the background of Noname’s whisper rap. “My pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism,” she raps unapologetically on the opening track, “Self,” setting a tongue-in-cheek tone, and she goes on to tackle her critics saying “Y’all really thought a b***h couldn’t rap,” as she proceeds to prove them wrong.
From personal testimony, Noname transitions into “Blaxploitation,” rebuking the caricatures of Black people in America and taking political stances, rapping, “she that naked bitch in videos, that drunk club lady…Keep the hot sauce in her purse and be real, real blacky/Just like Hilary Clinton who masqueraded the system.” Tying up the loose ends of “Blaxploitation,” Noname transitions into “Prayer Song,” but rather than scream her angst, she hushes to a whisper. This is her prayer for the victims of slavery, lamenting Black death with her rhymes.
But Room 25 is not all political pain and no emotional play. Noname spends the back half of the album reflecting, drifting from universal black struggle to an isolated view of her own. “Don’t Forget About Me” is a message of vulnerability, yearning for understanding and patience from loved ones during her times of personal turmoil. She retires the guitar strums and introduces violin strings, mutes the energetic, strong beats and showcases a softer, gentler sound. She slows down, no longer racing against time to prove a point.
Noname shines on “With You,” building to the album’s penultimate record where she finally unveils the depth of her personal pain. The song is not a resolution but a rationalization for her anger and exhaustion: “I’m almost just as empty as you think I am/A penny for your thoughts.” She whispers her words, thinking they will fall on deaf ears, but she still hopes someone is listening. On “With You,” she acknowledges her own struggle and holds nothing back. Depression, isolation, heartbreak—she exposes all at the album’s heaviest moment.
Room 25 proves Noname is no longer a wide-eyed, traveling gypsy. She is a woman recognizing her pain, plight, and position in the world. And when the unfavorable appears, rather than retreat into silence, Noname faces her demons, looks them in their eyes, and does what she does best: raps in spite of her pain.