Written by Marlena Wadley
photo via Noname
Upon arrival on February 8, The Metro was filled with a swarm of fans dying to see Chicago rapper Noname bless the stage at the first sold out hometown show of the Telefone tour. With acts Akenya and Ravyn Lenae opening the show, The Metro was a booming spectrum of Chicago talent.
I arrived in the middle of Akenya’s set, whose voice would make anyone wonder who she is, if they didn’t already. After a stretched interval of reggae elevator music, Ravyn gave the crowd a fun and boisterous performance, opening with her song “Greetings.” A mix of twists, shimmies, and whining, you could tell she was carefree and enjoying her performance just as much as her spectators. Her soft melodious voice touched the air as the audience cheered while she covered “The Truth” by India Arie, “Cranes in the Sky” by Solange, and “On and On” by Erykah Badu. She then ended the set with “Free Room,” a funky groove cut, which left her and everyone else rocking side-to-side and dancing freely.
After the band set up, Akenya—who doubles as Noname’s music director—hit the keys, as the crowd roared. The movie Carmen Jones was silently projected against the wall behind the stage, starring Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte, as the beat of “Sunday Duet” played out.
As Noname walked on stage, the crowd rumbled with excitement. Her subtle dancing, cute plaid skirt, and tennis shoes all contributed to her quirky performance. Noname made herself more comfortable on stage, bringing her mom’s lamp, chair, table, and a bottle of Maker’s Mark accompanied her. Though she was playing in her city, she still wanted the stage to feel like home.
Some bopping, the famous “Big Worm” scene from Friday, and shouts fill Metro as Noname tells the audience to clap to the beat of her song “Diddy Bop.” “How we feeling in the house tonight, I want everyone to say ‘We good,’ she exclaimed happily.
A pivotal moment and shift in the mood took place once “Casket Pretty” was performed. A song highlighting the violence in Chicago, it juxtaposes that with the city’s beauty, “All of my niggas is casket pretty, ain’t no one safe in this happy city.” Her set took a dramatic turn as the band quietly stopped, the audience silent as everyone soaks up the deeper meaning.
Noname left the crowd nostalgic as she played some of her older cuts, including her brilliant verse from Chance the Rapper’s song “Lost,” and shocked the audience with a surprise appearance from Mick Jenkins, who performed “Comfortable” with her. After the crowd exploded with a chant for an encore, she came back out with St. Louis rapper Smino, ending her set with “Shadow Man.”