The Chicago rapper Noname is an important person. Her loopy, elliptical, introspective style is unlike pretty much anything else happening in rap right now. Last year, she released her album Room 25, a truly great record. This year, she’s released singles like “Song 31” and “Song 32,” and she’s teamed up with fellow young Chicago rap greats Saba and Smino to form the supergroup Ghetto Sage. A couple of weeks ago, they released their debut single “Häagen Dazs.” It’s fantastic. If you care about rap music, Noname is someone you can’t ignore. But when Noname was on The Daily Show last night, she wasn’t there to perform, or even really to talk about her music career. She was there to talk about books.
Over the summer, Noname launched on online book club, one created specifically to highlight work from writers of color and writers within the LGBTQ community. Noname’s Book Club picks two books per month. Right now, it’s Octavia E. Butler’s Parable Of The Talents (selected by the R&B singer Kehlani) and Fariha Róisín’s How To Cure A Ghost. There are monthly meetups and social-media conversations around those books. It’s a cool project.
Talking to Daily Show host Trevor Noah last night, Noname explained that her mother owned a bookstore when she was growing up. The book club has a directory of independent black-owned bookstores, and Noname told Noah why: “It’s a little bit of a fuck-you to Amazon and kind of a fuck-you to the FBI… what they did to destroy black bookstores.” (That’s a real thing.) And she also said that she came up with the idea while high.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen Noname interviewed before — certainly not on TV — and she’s exactly as charming as her records would lead you to believe. For instance, when Noah attempts a “Who’s On First” routine with her rap name, she answers with this: “It’s a really terrible name. I couldn’t think of anything clever like DaBaby or Thee Stallion or whatever.” She’s good at this! Watch the interview below.
You can take part in Noname’s Book Club here.