If you ever fooled yourself that contemporary hiphop couldn’t be tender, soulful, and non-corny, pick up Telefone, one of 2016’s best rap albums, the debut release of Chicagoan Fatima “Noname” Warner. She sits squarely in the constellation of heartfelt, populist Midwest hiphop artists who orbit (and are technically more interesting than) Chance the Rapper. Noname’s sharp-but-susurrant murmur recalls Chano, Jean Grae, and even Lauryn Hill’s smoother moments on the mic—flowing, sometimes spilling over the banks of the beat, warm and comforting as Day One in times of crisis. First heard on Mick Jenkins’s Trees & Truths tape, then on Acid Rap’s “Lost,” Noname has had an organic ascent into a headliner. She’s a blissfully hype-light success story. Extra credit: Jamila Woods’s Noname-featuring “VRY BLK” (from Woods’s also essential HEAVN) bubbles over with a delicate, childlike joy in being melanin-rich. Purest Black Girl Magic. LARRY MIZELL JR.
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