The work of legendary musicians is sometimes tainted by controversial behavior outside of their art: John Lennon hit women, Kanye West supports Donald Trump, and Post Malone appropriates black culture. Their behavior leaves music fans unhappily pondering the question, “Can I enjoy this artist’s music without overlooking their heinous personal shortcomings?”
Chicago rapper Noname doesn’t require that her listeners answer such a question. She went by Noname Gypsy until March 2016, when she dropped the “gypsy” upon learning that that the word, referring to the Romani people, is debunked as inaccurate and disrespectful. When domestic violence allegations came out last month against artist Bryant Giles, who made the cover art for Noname’s new album Room 25, she promptly announced that she’ll be changing the cover art. Her tweet read, “I do not and will not support abusers, and I will always stand up for victims and believe their stories.”
Noname comfortably follows her own morals even when it’s not practical for her career, showing that she’s aware of the impact her words and actions make when they’re visible to thousands of people. Her simultaneously easygoing and radical style is equally present in her songs: each verse teems with imagery and word play thanks to her background in spoken word. On the self-titled track from Room 25, she says, “No name look like you/No name for private corporations to send emails to/’Cause when we walk into heaven/Nobody's name gon exist.” Despite a stage name that espouses anonymity, Noname crafts a vivid identity for herself as a musician and lives up to it in her daily life too.
Illustration by Janie Peacock