Music Review: Telefone, a cathartic and colorful mixtape

By Ben Rutabana

On this 10-track tape, Noname explores the widening emptiness that’s grown in her.

“Basket case, silhouette, cigarette, internet”

Telefone is a warm, healthy, cathartic and colorful mixtape with a touch of nostalgia for a life you never lived. Noname, a 25-year-old rapper from Chicago with a smile that imitates the same one you’d find on a child lighting her own birthday cake, released her first mixtape Telefone, a rich and playful account of her life growing up and it is vibrant. With her Dr. Seuss-like rhythm, she narrates a past that’s seen death, depression, alcoholism and anxiety but also talks about childhood love, joy identity all on the cadence of a lullaby.

On this 10-track tape, Noname explores the widening emptiness that’s grown in her. The death of her grandmother in part allowed her to re-evaluate what matters most to her beyond the magazine covers. An influential person in Noname’s life, her parting words are haunting; reflecting both the stress of coming adulthood and the burden of blackness in Chicago.

“Don’t grow up too soon
Don’t blow the candles out
Don’t let them cops get you”

On “Bye Bye Baby” Noname pays homage to the mothers that have committed abortions. In her words, she wanted to paint a new picture of it, one of love.

“What I tried to do is make a love song for them. I feel like whenever I hear people talking about abortion, they typically take the love out of it, as if it can never be a loving act — as if it’s only done out of hate or desperation. I know women who have gone through that experience. And there hasn’t been like, a song for them, or a moment of catharsis and healing for them in music. That shit was just important to me as a woman, as someone who cares about these women” – VIA THE FADER

Death itself wasn’t spared either. “Shadow Man” the final track talks of a day we’ve all thought about endlessly: our funerals.

My music was a church when my spirit hopped out

Shadow Man is riveting. It’s a eulogy for the lost young black folks and a reminder of how often they think about their lives in America. She refers to them as nightingales – birds known for powerful, beautiful songs – to be kept well in darkness.

My funeral a Disney fable
Cause the King bout to take me home

A guest verse from Saba only serves to echo her pain.

Funeral home lookin like a home that I used to live in
You wasn’t supposed to go so soon I took it for granted
Maybe we’ll meet the next life, maybe another planet
Open my soul but then it’ll end with an open casket

But just like the seasons, her subject matter changes and even when going through the cold winters in her life, she takes us back to Spring on Diddy Bop (a dance named famously after none other than P. Diddy himself). On Diddy Bop, Noname kicks back nostalgically to a late ‘90s, a time free of worries. Sleepovers at your friends place and worrying about wearing the flyest gear in high school. It’s that one time your mom caught you stealing a $20 out of her purse. For some of us it’s going to weddings as a kid and being bored out of your mind until your cousins came through and you played matatu at the back row. Whatever it is, she brings it out of you over a laid-back beat weaved together on a synthesizer and it’s therapeutic.

Telefone, Noname’s first mixtape is outstanding and a statement to who she is and what she’s bringing to the table. She stands to carry Lauryn Hill’s torch forward and I’m here for it. If you haven’t listened, it’s available on her SoundCloud right here!



Ben Rutabana
Ben in majoring in Finance. He enjoys reading biographies, working out and listening to podcasts. He swears that Kanye is the greatest rapper of all time.

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