Noname – ‘Reality Check’

Aug 10th, 2016
| posted by: Jonno |

Today we are eight years old. This website is no longer a baby, or even a small child. It has grown into its own independent person; one that can walk, talk and still manage to attract DMCA takedown notices for Britney Spears songs some 5 years after the fact. When I was thinking about what we should write about today, I remember the preliminary conversation D and I had in his bedroom back in 2008, when I still lived less than a metre away and we frequently called each other over to listen to new music. We discussed the fact that our favourite magazines growing up, from Rolling Stone to Kerrang!, Juice, Q, NME and others, had always treated music releases with respect. That this sort of thing was missing online, especially in Australia. Fast-forward nearly a decade and that has changed significantly. As blogs have gradually gone the way of Myspace, the sites that have survived have done so by focusing on the quality that we initially found lacking. When we hit publish on our first post, we couldn’t imagine something like Talkhouse, a site where artists review other artists’ albums. Or Noisey, a dedicated video channel that created six-part series about one rappers’ life. Or the ascendance of Red Bull Music Academy. Our landscape has shifted, and largely, it’s for the better. It has made us work harder at what we do, be more selective about how and what we write about. As you may have noticed, we no longer write every day. We aren’t kids living at home, staring at ceiling, listening to our Rhapsody music players and dreaming about being rockstars, or even rockstar journalists. But when we do, we still do it with the love. Because honestly, we both still really love music.

I was reminded of this recently when an artist who very nearly dropped off my radar completely released her first record to little initial fanfare. Noname, who used to trade as Noname Gypsy, is the sort of artist D and I usually get excited about. She exists on the fringe of a larger Chicago movement, having featured on songs by other outlying, Internet artists, like Chance The Rapper, who have since gone global. She’s someone we discovered through falling down an endless rabbit hole and coming out on the other side, where a sweet, teenage singer and rapper who was still finding her feet was trying out her voice to an audience of whoever would listen. The story of Noname is part of her appeal to us; we love telling other people about new music, it’s pretty much the only reason why we keep doing this for no money. But the other half is how she sounds.

Noname has found her feet. She deserves more attention. One listen to ‘Reality Check’, in which she wraps her sing-song rhymes around a neo-soul xylophone and handclap groove and addresses very unsexy concepts like anxiety and body image concerns, shows that she’s matured in a big way. You can hear the elastic MIDI bass and Motown harmonies under that tight hi-hat, as Noname shows her easy ability to flip conventional phrasing, taking on board the recent boom in conscious, thought-provoking hip-hop infused with jazz. ‘Can I get my two sugars please?/Jesus made an album while still waiting in the line for cream’ It’s a song that has a vibe more than a call to action, a feeling that seeps into your veins from repeat listens. It’s the sort of song we’ve been writing about, on and off, for eight years.

There are so many other things to talk about these days; the prison system, terrorism, economics, Baby boomers, Zika virus. But the one thing we’ve found, no matter how far we’ve travelled around the world and from each other, is that there isn’t a person on this Earth who you can’t relate to by talking to them about music. Being in the position to let someone hear something amazing for the first time is a privilege. We created it for ourselves, but now it’s more of a duty.

Thankyou for letting us continue to fulfil it.

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