Almost two-and-a-half years ago, we walked around Chicago rapper Noname’s new LA neighborhood with her — at the time she was working to make her next, highly-anticipated album a revolutionary text with the warmth and intimacy she was already beloved for; radically political, but personal and fun. She’d long named it Factory Baby. Instead, Sundial came as she freed herself from her own constraints. It’s bold and rich but lands naturally at the powerful intersection of her offbeat wordplay, tasteful ear, gift of introspection, and years of self-designed education on freedom itself.
She analyzes and condemns our entrenchment in capitalism and its ilk with range and grace: on the sharp-witted “Namesake”, she calls out the NFL, Jay-Z, and herself for their complicity. On the sunny “Hold Me Down,” she kindly offers “We better when we admit/We too can cause harm.” Her ethos of self-implication and illuminating contradiction is especially important considering how uneasy Jay Electronica’s verse on “Balloons” is as he toys with antisemitic tropes. When fans condemned this, Noname understood, but was unapologetic: “If you feel I’m wrong for including that’s fair. Don’t listen. Unfollow and support all the other amazing rappers putting out dope music.”
All over Sundial, Noname sees the world in the mirror, moving fluidly from contemplations on her own trauma profiteering on “Balloons,” joyride raps about a whirlwind romance on “Boom Boom,” insecure confessions on “Beauty Supply,” and customary shit talking on “Oblivion” (where she rightfully asserts her place as one of the best rappers out: “I’m that bitch, I told you that”). Sundial also sounds relieved of the pressure of a girl genius making her next great work and more like a community to make theirs together. An impressive roster of 12 vocalists, 9 instrumentalists, 14 producers, and four other rappers outstandingly realize Noname’s vision of an album that calls us to our feet—to dance, to act, to see ourselves. —M.C.