My Name Don't Exist: "no name" for Noname [Song Analysis]
I recently saw Noname in concert in Chicago when she opened for Anderson .Paak (I’ll be talking about .Paak’s perfomance more in depth at another time). Noname is, of course, incredibly talented, but also incredibly charismatic and full of energy while on stage. It was whimsical to see her kinky straight wig blow in the wind as she performed some of her hits. The feeling I felt after the concert inspired me to dive into my hard drive and pull out a song analysis I did for Noname when Room 25 first dropped. Here is that analysis.
Noname’s sophomore album Room 25 tells never ending tales of self discovery and growth. While her initial project, Telefone, was incredibly nostalgic and contained several over-the-shoulder looks at the past, Room 25 takes several long looks within. Beginning the album with the song “Self” helps to set the tone for the entire body of work as Noname, [presumably] along with the listener, questions the purpose of the album and her role in presenting it to the world. She settles on the album being one that she made for herself, which, artistically, is the ideal way to create anyway. The album comes full circle with the track “no name” as Noname indirectly discusses her stage name in accordance with contemporary political and social issues. I’m not going to apply any critical theories or methods in this analysis , but it’s incredibly interesting that many more lyrical artists are almost inseparable from social commentary and one day I want to talk specifically about why I think that it, but…back to the analysis.
The track “no name” is a combination of her reasoning for her stage name, Noname, and giving attention to those that do not have a name and questioning why this is. Toward the beginning of the track she insists that she does not have a name so that those who use names against us will have nothing to use against her. They cannot name her as a prisoner, if she doesn’t have a name. Her verse consists of several juxtapositions used in order to point out the inconsistencies that exist in society. She contrasts tourists visiting gentrified areas and the black people that struggle just to live there, the ghost that rides her bike with her even though it’s body lays in the ground, and the pennies that she makes that don’t necessarily make her much profit.
“no name look like you”
This line is a double entendre. It calls attention to the fact that Noname felt as if there was no one on television or in entertainment that looked like her, giving her no role model and making her aspirations seem like so much nothing. This is an idea that Noname discusses often. It also reiterates the fact that Noname looks like her audience and has more in common with them than they might think. The FADER article Here Comes Noname documents Noname’s financial issues following her move to California and her desire to be seen as a normal person. She talks about the transition that she had to make from making music to feed her soul and making music to feed her stomach. Noname is just like her audience; she has a lot of the same issues, patterns of thinking and insecurities.
The song sounds like a backing track played during the end credits after a black classic (think Eve’s Bayou or Jason’s Lyric). Her verse packs a lot of power through it’s soft spoken words which is fitting since it is only about 50 seconds during a four minute song. The end of the song implores the listener not to give up hope and to live their life as best they can. This realization and necessity to live life seems to be echoed throughout the entire album, reinforcing the way that Noname wants to live life from now on.