“song 32” is further proof of noname’s wisdom

April 5, 2019
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It’s likely just a coincidence that Noname’s new track dropped the week that Fatimah Nyeema Warner’s hometown elected its first Black woman mayor — a Black gay woman, even. In elections and on Noname tracks, identity matters often, but character matters more. And though the progress made by Lori Lightfoot’s landslide victory is a small step towards making the term “democracy” possibly mean something, the definition of integrity, and its absoluteness, are far trickier subjects.

These intertwined topics are on Noname’s lips throughout “Song 32” — though, if we’re being honest, Fatima’s raps have never NOT questioned integrity. Her own, as much as everybody else’s. Noname’s constant process of evaluation — not only of self, but of surrounding absolutes — is part of what makes her work indispensable in 2019. Her implication is that, like hip-hop, character is always in need of a re-up and a next level. No one gets a permanent pass anymore.

It makes the fact that Noname is one of the best rappers standing that much more important. Fatima’s flow is that of a freestylist; yet her op-ed lyrics are laser-guided, flinching at absolutely nothing, making every syllable sting. It should come as no surprise that, on “Song 32,” she puts the Christianist patriarchy and cultural-capitalist multi-nationals in the cross-hairs; but Barack Obama’s itchy drone trigger-finger getting fact-checked (“humanly a hypocrite”) just might cause heads to turn.

And, these are not throwaway lines. They serve a greater purpose: The laid-back, organ roll of “Song 32” is about finding a balance between all the things America really is and some of the things America claims it wants to be, with Noname embodying the search for that balance. Of course, by chorusing that “everybody on me, I’m looking just like you,” she’s also indicating that this makes her like everyone else. Even when her skills assure all those listening that she is oh so very special.