Noname’s Charming Realness at 2018’s Soul’d Out Festival

Last Friday, The Crystal Ballroom buzzed with excitement as the young crowd awaited Noname’s entrance to the stage, to close out night three of Portland’s 2018 Soul’d Out Music Festival. She emerged with a calm confidence and a wide grin as she greeted the cheering crowd with a few energetic shout-outs before diving into her performance.

Photo by Sam Tolman

Fatimah Warner – who goes by the stage name Noname – performed nearly all of the carefully curated tracks from her conversational 2016 mixtape Telefone, plus a few new songs off her upcoming album. She entranced the crowd with her commanding nonchalance, intertwining humanizing themes of tragedy, hope and insecurity and bringing a necessary injection of cool feminine energy rarely found with such strength and sincerity in the male-dominated world of hip-hop music.

Noname’s roots in poetry could be felt in her uniquely expressive delivery of innovative cadences that rose and fell with the spirited timbre of her voice.

Accompanied by breezy bass riffs, grooving rhythms and playfully soulful keys, the vivid imagery of her lyrics transported the audience to Noname’s intimate memories of growing up in Chicago’s Southside.

Photo by Sam Tolman

Watching her move through her more popular songs such as “Reality Check” and “Diddy Bop” that brought her refreshingly genuine artistry to the limelight, you could see the glowing joy on Noname’s face while she connected with band members and adoring fans. As she moved into solemnly toned pieces like “Casket Pretty,” the hushed respect of the crowd was almost palpable. Through it all, Noname engaged us with her charming transparency.

Staying true to her name, Noname’s music and performance style defied the confines of classification. They were somehow both fresh and familiar, simultaneously simple and complex. The rawness and vulnerability of her work was brought to life through a polished and powerful presentation. As the lights switched on following the encore song “Yesterday” and the crowd hesitantly shuffled toward the exit, a sense of serenity lingered. Together, we had been embraced by a creative soul whose uplifting realness would go with us out into the night.

Photo by Sam Tolman