Noname But Lots Of Personality At Seattle Concert



Noname on-stage at Seattle’s Showbox at the Market on Sunday, March 10, 2019.

With a glowing neon light that said “ROOM 25” blinking behind her performance, punctuating every verse of the deeply personal songs that Noname performed, her low-register rap felt like a poem more than anything—which makes sense given that Fatimah Warner, known as Noname, started out as a poet.

However, there’s no denying that her music is through-and-through rap, as she performs verses about police brutality, her first love, and her own mortality with a fluidity and rhythmicity that many rappers can only hope to achieve.

Her performance began with the first track from her self-released debut studio album: “Self.” As she rapped the line, “Y’all really thought a bitch couldn’t rap, huh?” the crowd was entranced by her magnetic personality and pulled into her vulnerable lyrics and honest presentation.

After her introduction, she began performing the rest of her album, showing off “Blaxploitation” and “Prayer Song”—two songs about racism and police brutality with a rapid-fire rapping style that exemplifies the breadth of her style.

In contrast, Noname followed up the introduction tracks with a medley from her mixtape “Telefone,” including many of the popular tracks that garnered her critical acclaim like “Diddy Bop” and “Reality Check,” though I was disappointed not to hear my absolute favorite, “Forever” in the medley.

After stepping into the spotlight and pointing out that “Now everybody can see my acne,” she performed many of the remaining tracks, including “Montego Bae” and “Ace” (to loud cheering in the audience).

At the opening notes of “Window,” I can say that I personally screamed— that song had been my number one track of 2018 on Spotify with dozens and dozens of listens. With the beautiful symphonic crescendos and the theatrical instrumentation that resembles a 1950’s movie soundtrack, Noname told a vulnerable story of her first love and her fall from innocence. I cried real tears.

While I was at my most vulnerable, crying from the long-awaited performance of one of my favorite tracks, followed by the emotional track “Don’t Forget About Me,” Noname caught me with the song I had been disappointed not to hear earlier in the night: “Forever.”

Moments after rapping about her mortality and her fear of being forgotten, Noname rapped triumphantly, “Fuck it, I’ll live forever,” as the backup singers (and my own now-hoarse voice) sang the chorus that I had been obsessed with for months.

Despite the bright flashing lights and the high-energy of her upbeat performances, Noname gave the audience insight into the most vulnerable parts of her life and community. As she rapped lyrics about the devalued black lives taken at the hands of police—as well as her own self-doubts—her face conveyed the intensity of these verses, almost acting out the stories she was telling through her body language on stage.

At no point was her emotional body language clearer than during her performance of “Bye Bye Blue”—a song she had written to process an abortion she got years prior. As she rapped from the perspective of her aborted fetus, processing her guilt aloud to the audience while jumping and dancing to the upbeat drums, the grief she felt from the emotionally intense decision she made was juxtaposed with the cheers of the audience and Noname’s radiant energy herself.

The closing song of her show was also the closing track of her album, called “no name.” After the intro went on for a minute or two, Noname laughed and said, “If you’ve listened to this album, you know this intro is so long. I don’t know why I did this.” She then closed out the concert with a ballad about her stage name, Noname.

“So many names don’t exist,” she rapped, before the backup singers sang, “Through all the joy and all the pain, don’t forget from where you came,” and Fatimah Warner left the stage.

At that point, I was completely content with the performance I had watched. She performed extremely well, she included all of my favorites, and “no name” drew the concert to a perfect close.

That being said, I was not disappointed to see her come back on stage for an obligatory encore. For her final song, Noname performed her closing track from “Telefone,” called “Shadow Man.”

After the final line, the concert closed with the singers repeating the line, “Bless the nightingale, darkness keep you well.” Noname said “bye” into the microphone and quietly walked off the stage, leaving the band to finish out the musically lush outro.

Noname would play a second concert on March 10 (which she scheduled after her first show sold out faster than expected), and I’ll admit that I was tempted to buy a ticket on the spot to see her a second time. But on top of not having an extra $50 to spare on secondhand tickets, the show I saw on Saturday was so complete that I felt entirely satisfied with the concert I attended.

Her music is good, which makes a concert worth it in itself, but even further, her personality and her storytelling left me feeling like there was nothing more for me to hear.

Josh may be reached at
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