Soul is a commonly known genre of music, but like most genres, its origins are an amalgam of cultural and personal influences. The term itself suggests a depth that transcends the structure of what we know as soul, which recently has made way for an electronic vein of music that is equally emotionally potent. But noname’s recent mixtape Telefone actually has led me to an even deeper connection, one that itself has touched my soul.
Noname’s art is her meditation. Perhaps it is her delivery that makes it mine as well. She spits rhymes with the carefree candor of an observant young person, still filled with an optimistic energy. Harmonies of male choirs leave my heart a-flutter, giving the tape an ironic lightness in the face of today’s horrors. I feel a rut forming under me as I relate so much new music to our society at large, but I would like to remain honest. Music and art can only be understood in context. And at this point, listening to music can either distract or engage with life, and life today isn’t something to ignore. Telefone engages with life today in a way that resonates with me, and that I won’t soon forget.
In “Freedom Interlude,” a famous quote by Nina Simone includes a prelude of additional wisdom: “How are you going to tell anybody who has not been in love how it feels to be in love? You cannot do it to save your life. You can describe things, but you can’t tell them.” This is almost more powerful than hearing the rest of the track’s namesake quote because, in practice, noname dances around an idea of love moreso than oppression. From the very start in “Yesterday,” there is a detached significance which noname establishes, as if she is more interested in describing the allegory than the memory. For example, you don’t necessarily have to live sober to rejoice in the same triumph she does on “All I Need.” You don’t need to live in Chicago to grieve with her on “Casket Pretty.” To make the most of noname, all you need is presence.