Show: With Ravyn Lenae on Tuesday at U Street Music Hall.
202-588-1889. ustreetmusichall.com. Sold out.
“I’m a very reserved person,” Chicago rapper Noname told the magazine the Fader last year. “I typically like to be in the background.” Despite her desires, the 25-year-old talent, born Fatimah Warner, keeps making her way to the foreground. It began with a scene-stealing verse on Chance the Rapper’s 2013 breakthrough mix tape, “Acid Rap,” and continued on a handful of features alongside Chance, whom she met at a teen program through a public library, and other up-and-comers in the Chicago underground.
And although it took three years from those first verses for Noname to put out a full project of her own, this summer’s “Telefone,” it was worth the wait: The mix tape perfectly pairs her slam-poetry-influenced raps with jazz and neo-soul-inflected beats. Her syllables tumble forth as she details memories of childhood and summers past, contrasting them with the trials and tribulations of young adulthood, especially in a Chicago beset by crisis.
There are politics in Noname’s poetry, which touches on poverty, police brutality and abortion, but she paints pictures, not polemics. On “Casket Pretty,” a song about the Chicago murder wave, she quietly bemoans “too many babies in suits,” and on “Forever,” she turns a tribute to Trayvon Martin into a metaphysical meditation: “I sold my name for seven bags of Skittles/ On Sunny Set Boulevard/ Please tell me God is rainbow pretty/ Mystery and fully charged.” With lyrics like that, Noname won’t be in the background for long.