“Bless the Nightingale, darkness keep you well” croons an R&B army, before Chicago MC Noname Gypsy, takes charge on the final track of her album Telefone. I was not present when Hip-Hop was first discovered, but I know it must have been unearthed with the same joy, spontaneity, and excitement that is found on “Shadow Man”.
Telefone is a treasure trove of Dilla-eque beats with added Chicago flare, simple images painted with extraordinary details, and vivid lyrics soaked in spirituality and realism. “Shadow Man” is the crown jewel of that treasure trove. The journey brings the listener through R&B, Soul, Funk, Gospel, Jazz, Hip-Hop, and sunshine seamlessly.
The artist has grown and flourished since first appearing as a feature on Acid Rap mixtape by Chance the Rapper. Noname’s flow and delivery, is dark, witty, and uses a clear understanding of narrative “When I die twenty seven rappers at my funeral, Moses wrote my name in gold, and Kanye did the eulogy”. The track plays more like a cipher, with the features jumping in one after another, giving it a playfulness that remains with every listen.
It seems strange to bring up gender in the song review, especially because Telefone doesn’t address it at all. It wouldn’t be worth mentioning. Except for the fact that Hip-Hop is almost completely male dominated, making Noname Gypsy even more incredible. What Noname does for rap is better than most of her male, and more plentiful counterparts. She is innovative and tells stories that surprise the listener with unique sound. For the few Queens and female rappers that do exist, they have ascended to fame because they identify as proud, ‘female rappers’. But not Noname Gypsy, humble, sits at the big dog table of Hip Hop and would be a more worthy nominee of the crown and the apparent royalty status that comes with being a ‘female rapper’. Disagree? Not after you listen below.