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Album Review: Noname – Telefone

Noname-Telefone-608x608

For the past three years Chicago-native rapper Noname kept a low profile and has had fans eagerly anticipating a release from the wonderfully robust MC. Years of talking about a mixtape and making fantastic guest appearances on fellow Chicago artists Chance the Rapper & Jamila Woods latest projects, it’s only appropriate that Noname shines bright and proves to everyone that she is a name worth remembering, regardless of the lack of one. Her debut mixtape, Telefone, exhibits her versatile skills as an artist with bubbly production that’s coated on every track and can instantly fill a room with glee. Her seductive delivery touches upon both heated and personal issues that wedge their way into your thoughts and make you reflect on the kind of atmosphere that courses through the entire tape.

The track “Yesterday” sets the tone for the beautifully inspired project. Noname wastes no time and jumps right into her skillful wordplay that is enchanting and sweet to the ear; there is a lot of content within the song but it’s not intimidating to listen to. It’s rather light with a pretty piano progression that’s supported by harmonious vocals that add to the uplifting effect of the song.

“Sunny Duet” is one of my favorite songs off Telefone. Fellow Chicago artist theMind lends his soulful vocals over a soft melody that satisfies the heart. The track is buttery and smooth with Noname carrying the rhythm of the track in a way that seems effortless. Cam O’bi’s production is glossy and puts a huge emphasis on the kind of feeling that the song is trying to convey – a summer anthem for the lonely and confused.

Atlanta rapper Raury channels a similar flow to that of notorious Outkast member André 3000 on “Diddy Bop” with a wonderfully catchy hook provided by Cam O’bi. Ethereal synths float their way throughout the song and put the mind at ease, as each artist pushes their effort to make us feel like we shouldn’t have to worry about the uncontrollable predicaments that we face in life.

“Casket Pretty” sheds light on a dark issue that surrounds the streets of the windy city. Chicago has been known for its high murder rates, its residents subjected to receiving phone calls about loved ones fatally passing away due to the violence that posses the corners of the streets. Noname elaborates on the idea that black people who roam the streets share the same fate as a corpse in a casket. This is a surreal display of reality presented with a melancholic production style provided by Saba and Pheolix.

Telefone is an incredible achievement as a debut mixtape for an up and coming artist such as Noname. It’s relatable on a surface level while maintaining the integrity for those who can decipher the complex wordplay that’s ingrained in the efforts of the young Chicago artist. The latest project from the stunning MC does a superb job of sedating us to it’s surreal themes while shedding light onto the issues that the citizens of Chicago have tackled throughout the past few decades.

-Review by Michael Eidelson

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Photos of the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble live in studio

Chicago’s Ethnic Heritage Ensemble dropped into The Goods yesterday before heading to their artist-loft show up the street. They began with an improvised jam, then discussed the history of Chicago music scene, the band, improvised music and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians with guest-host David Ryshpan. Have a listen!

More about the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble can be found on their Facebook page; from that site:

  • The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble was formed shortly after percussionist Kahil El’Zabar graduated from the school of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians in 1976. He teamed up with tenor saxophonist Edward Wilkerson, Jr. to play music that combined contemporary African American musical styles, like jazz, with more traditional African instrumentation and rhythms. The duo would frequently grow to a trio in these first years, adding musicians like saxophonist Light Henry Huff and Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre. In 1988, they added trombonist and conga player Joseph Bowie, who is the leader of the jazz-funk group Defunkt. In 1997, Wilkerson was replaced by Ernest “Khabeer” Dawkins who is the leader of New Horizons Ensemble.