Noname has no time for your half-assed applause. From the outset of her performance at the French Legation Museum in East Austin yesterday, the young Chicago rapper asked the audience to bring it. She beckoned us all closer to the stage and directed a call and response of “we good, and we good” before heckling the “cool-ass people” in the back to make some more noise. She performed with the kind of confidence that would make any recluse jealous. The kind of confidence that allows you to wear your own tour T-shirt onstage.
Chicago voices have been front and center at SX this year, and Noname took the stage after Kweku Collins and Jamila Woods (with whom Noname shares a band) graced the crowd with their engaging performances. Heat exhaustion and excessive drinking makes SX audiences look bored 75% of the time even when they’re not, and as an artist it can get pretty frustrating when you’re playing for a bunch of people that look like the walking dead. Noname did not let anyone look bored during her set. Rather than command the audience’s attention, she demanded it. That makes for a great show.
Noname ripped through a series of songs off of her excellent 2016 mixtape Telefone, including “Reality Check” and “Freedom (Interlude).” On the latter, she grinned a little before delivering that cheeky line: “Let’s get back on IG/ Open the DM/ I think he like me.” I laughed when she followed that up with: “Disillusion on the guest list/ You said plus one/ So where your plus one at?” Another highlight of the set arrived when Noname broke out her verse from Chance The Rapper’s “Lost.” She barely stopped to catch a breath throughout, delivering all of those stinging one-liners without missing a beat. And people were dancing in a way they hadn’t been 30 minutes or so before.
Sometime after performing “Forever,” Noname looked out at the crowd and said: “Alright, I got one more song and then I’m gonna go drink a shitload of liquor.” By that point, Noname had the audience’s full attention, and they cheered as she broke out Telefone’s revelatory opening track “Yesterday.” There’s a line on that song that I love: “The vacancy of hallelu/ Me hollow in my interviews.” Noname is a poet, and regardless of how broken up this industry and world might make her feel sometimes, she’s got the whole package onstage.