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Inside Beat

How rapper Noname changes what it means to be famous

Noname is an American rapper who has been using her social media and account "Noname Book Club" to increase awareness on social issues.  – Photo by Wikimedia

A Chicago-born rapper is quickly becoming the voice of reason, resistance and change against systemic American issues — making Noname a name to remember. 

Noname is the professional persona of 28-year-old Fatimah Nyeema Warner. She began her career as a slam poet in Chicago but gained celebrity status through her unique rap style. Noname’s music ranges from sultry conversational confessions to profound stream-of-consciousness pieces, each quietly and whimsically presented to make listeners really listen.

Noname first hit the mainstream with a feature on Chance the Rapper’s 2013 mixtape "Acid Rap," which allowed her to build her independent catalog. Noname’s debut mixtape, "Telefone" (2016), introduced her as a witty, passionate and confidently cool artist.

Two years later, Noname released her debut album "Room 25," which solidified her status as a creative powerhouse. Her independently owned music discusses race, sex, self and politics, which has earned her both critical acclaim and public pushback.

Now, Noname is shedding her self-made anonymous skin in the name of justice and equality. Originally using the stage name Noname as a way to maintain anonymity over celebrity, the rapper is now embracing her status and remaining outspoken.

In her 2018 song “Blaxploitation” she raps: “I'm struggling to simmer down, maybe I'm an insomni-(B)lack / Bad sleep triggered by bad government / Write a think piece in the rap song, the new age covenant / If you really think I'm cooking crackin, pass me the oven mitts”

Alongside her provocative music, Noname uses social media to advocate for issues like Black Lives Matter (BLM), women’s rights and anti-capitalist sentiments.

Back in May, the rapper sent out a series of fiery tweets, criticizing celebrities who failed to use their platforms for social change.

The following month, musician J. Cole released a presumed diss track about his fellow rapper. In his song “Snow On Tha Bluff,” J. Cole addresses BLM protests, police brutality and Black experience but also dedicates a significant portion of the track to dissing an unnamed woman.

Fans assumed the woman to be Noname based on the description of her tweets in the song. J. Cole criticized the unnamed woman for her “queen tone” and her attempts to educate her social media followers. Though he never confirmed that the song was about Noname, he certainly didn’t deny it.

Following the release of “Snow On Tha Bluff,” J. Cole took to Twitter to thoroughly praise Noname and encourage fans to follow her, all the while maintaining his stance from the track.

Noname stayed silent on Twitter but released a track of her own just two days later. In “Song 33,” Noname spends the minute-long song embracing her queen tone, doubling down on her criticism of celebrity silence and not-so-subtly digging at J. Cole.

“I guess the ego hurt now / It’s time to go to work, wow, look at him go / He really 'bout to write about me when the world is in smokes?,” she said.

J. Cole responded to the track simply by sharing it on Twitter without a caption, effectively raising a white flag and putting their differences aside.

Noname’s social media remains entirely dedicated to political activism. Her digital support and sharing of Black content catalyzed her Noname Book Club, an online and in-person community committed to amplifying people of color voices.

The book club features two books a month, each written by an author of color, and offers free, in-person meetings to discuss the books at any of the 12 chapters around the country — in-person meetups are not currently in-session due to the ongoing coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Earlier this year, Noname Book Club launched its Prison Program, which allows the community to send and share their monthly features with incarcerated citizens. Many of Noname’s recent social media posts revolve around police and prison abolition.

Noname is a loud and passionate artist who uses art as an agent to change. Her social media presence coupled with her recent outflow of new, topical music shows that she is gaining momentum as an activist, with no signs of slowing down. Don’t let the name fool you.

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