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Noname Is Back And Ready To Make Trouble on ‘Sundial’

L.A.-via-Chicago rap poet Fatimah Nayeema Warner took off with her 2015 mixtape Telefone and her 2018 album Room 25, with a rude-girl wit all her own. As she famously boasted, “My pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism.” It’s been a long wait, but Sundial is exactly what you were praying the new Noname album would be—eloquent, furious, funny, cerebral, bristling with rage and revenge. Warner’s got a voice you can’t mistake for anyone else. And yes, she definitely showed up in a mood to talk some shit.

The best surprise on Sundial might be the fact that it exists. Fans worried for years whether we’d ever get another Noname album, after her disenchantment with the industry in the wake of Room 25. She put her music career on pause to devote herself to revolutionary politics, community activism, and her Noname Book Club, while opening her Radical Hood Library in L.A. That left little energy for her art. As she told Rolling Stone, “I’m starting to be a little less interested in making music.”

She announced in 2021 that she was scrapping her long-delayed follow-up Factory Baby, soon after the excellent comeback loosie “Rainforest.” She admitted, “Most days I’m not sure if I’ll ever make music again. The last time I was consistently making songs was 4 years ago.”

But Noname isn’t ambivalent at all here—she goes full blast. Sundial is the sound of an artist who hasn’t lost any of her passion for making music—or making trouble. It’s wild to hear her take aim at Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Kendrick Lamar in “Namesake.” “I ain’t fucking with the Super Bowl or Jay-Z/Propaganda for the military,” she declares, denouncing artists for collaborating with the NFL. As she says, “Go Beyoncé go!/Watch the fighter jet fly high!/War machine gets glamorized, we play the game to pass the time.”

Sundial features guests like Billy Woods, Common, Jay Electronica, Ayoni, and more. But she sounds like her own radical self. Like Room 25, it’s a jazzy groove with neo-soul echoes of the Native Tongues and D’Angelo. All over the album, she’s got choice words for sucker MCs (“you sound like cat piss on popcorn”), for racism, for capitalism, for imperialism, for anyone who gets in her way. 

She kicks it off with the loungey bossa nova groove of “Black Mirror,” where she introduces the newest version of herself: “Yo, she’s a shadow walker, moon stalker, Black author, librarian, contrarian.” Her revolutionary ethos means she sees herself as always standing outside of the norm. As she says, “Gender is dimension one/We live in dimension four/The floor became an afterthought/My cordless phone a bag of rocks.”

Her original plan was to drop “Balloons” as a July single, with Jay Electronica and Eryn Allen Kane, but she opted to keep the album all of a piece. It’s one of the highlights here. She’s blasé about the emotional struggles from Room 25, saying, “Yo, I never need no man, I got a little bit of love and a couple of friends.” But self-determination is her big theme on “Potentially the Interlude,” where she warns, “I’m the villain in the keyhole / I can open up the devil’s lock.” “Hold Me Down” features Jimetta Rose and the Voices of Creation. “Oblivion,” with Common and Ayoni, looks at a world on the verge of environmental and nuclear catastrophe. But she shrugs off the horror with the line, “When the world blows up, that’s it/Motherfucker, I don’t care, let me talk my shit.”


“Gospel?” is a spiritual statement with $ilkMoney, Billy Woods, and Stout, starting off with gospel piano and the hymn “God Will Make A Way,” leading to Noname saying, “This is a ode to Haiti, Mozambique, Martinique, Trinidad, Grenada/Wherever Black people sleep/Pray for them, pray for me, pray for me, pray for me.” But she flips any kind of anodyne gospel pie-in-the-sky optimism, with the chorus, “If we put up a fight, everything will be fine.” It’s a hook that sounds less paradoxical the more you listen.

“Afro Futurism” is a poetic meditation on a culture in turmoil, until Noname signs off with the line, “The sky says I’m still alive.” That’s something to be grateful for. But for Noname, that could never be enough. The fighting spirit of Sundial means that for her, it’s a moment of grace, but then on with the battle. And part of her brilliance is she never lets anyone rest easy for too long—least of all herself.

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