If I had to send someone to their first hip hop concert, I’d send them to Noname. Fatimah Warner (a.k.a. Noname) is best known for her collaborations with Chance the Rapper, but she herself has a clearly unique and distinct persona; her warmth and good vibes really radiate from the stage in a way that I haven’t experienced at any other show.

Photo Credit: Russell Canceran
Photo Credit: Russell Canceran

Ravyn Lenae opened the show, and her stage chemistry with Noname was palpable. Noname has a deliberately understated feel to her; she owned the stage with a comfortable confidence. Lenae was bubbly and exuberant as she performed “Spice” and “Last Breath” off of her most recent EP, Midnight Moonlight (2017), as well as

a few hit songs from Moon Shoes (2015).

Lenae, who has been touring with Noname for the Telefone tour, worked well as the opening act. Her celebratory attitude and body language was important to get the crowd in the right mood for Noname—it felt as though she were inviting the audience into her mu- sic and her experience. The entire show, starting with Ravyn Lenae’s smooth vocals, had a sense of being not only a collective experience but a collective creation.

Photo Credit: Russell Canceran
Photo Credit: Russell Canceran

Despite the memorable opening, Noname was clearly the star of the show due to the way her stage presence worked so well with all the other artists. Her interactions with the vocalists were heart-warming to watch; it was obvious that even though they weren’t looking at each other, they were vibing off each other. This is very deliberate: Telefone (2016) as an album, as she has said

in an interview with The Chicago Tribune, was conceptualized as “this very open-ended conversation with [her] audience [...] like that first conversation you have with someone you like but don’t really know—all the awkwardness, the little silences, the laughter and more serious subjects that you didn’t think you’d get into.”

Indeed, her husky vocals vary in speed in a way that almost mimics a conversational tone. At some points throughout the show, it seemed like she was just chatting with the audience. The music and beats behind her had naturally morphed to fit the sound and speed of her voice. “Casket Pretty,” performed with the same raw, earnest tone she uses in the recorded track, came across almost as a whispered confession; “Diddy Bop” and “Lost” both took on a daydream-y, optimistic tone. Perhaps her best-known track, “All I Need,” also drew in the whole crowd for its most recognizable lines: “Noname off the drugs / Noname quit the weed / Telefone delight / Love is all I need.”

Both Noname and Lenae have a lofty, relaxed magnetism to their stage personas that make it seem like the whole show had just popped into existence right then and there, drawn together by the warmth of both of their voices.

The end of the show left me with that floaty, glowing feeling you sometimes feel when you witness someone doing something for love, and I smiled the whole way home. It seems strange to describe the intensity of the experience, because it’s hard to explain how watching an act as informal and confident as Noname can fill you with happiness from the inside. Then again, that’s really her signature thing: a self-love so deep and so simple it’s hard not to mirror.

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