Monday, October 1st, 2018

Noname ft. Smino & Saba – Ace

A Chicago rapper who needs nointroduction…


Julian Axelrod: Three of the best rappers in Chicago the world go in over a bed of whispers, warm breezes and fluttering coos with some of the most conflicted flexes in recent memory. Smino’s sidewinder croon hops on and off beat like a kid touching a hot stove before easing into a hook so smooth it practically floats off into the atmosphere. Noname’s quietly virtuosic bars gleam with the joy of discovery, a young genius reveling in her new love of weed and sex and the life-affirming act of declaring these other rappers ain’t shit. And just when you think it can’t get better, Saba comes through with perhaps the crowning achievement of his already incredible year. His motormouth musings elicit some holy mix of pride, elation and astonishment from the depths of my soul, and yet his boasts are so nonchalant it feels like you stumbled into a conversation with the smartest guy at the party.”GOAT TRIO TYPE SHIT” is right.

Matias Taylor: There’s a conversational quality to the lyrics, the delivery, and the ebb and flow of the track itself (amplified by the mood-setting acapella sample in the beat). Everything is in sync here; it sounds like the best kind of jam session, or like a late night conversation with good friends — warm, funny, honest, and never trying too hard to show it.

Nicholas Donohoue: Luscious, silly, precious, and good-natured. The audio of an early fall drive with your friends commenting on everything out the window, enjoying the laughs and the silence, and holding that feeling that everything will be alright eventually.

Lilly Gray: Woof, this is smooth. Sometimes minimal, chill work like this ends up sounding empty or missing an element to me, but the pillowy woo background, seeming clipped from a music box or Fantasia, provides soft closeness that keeps it all together. That and the obvious enjoyment of the vocalists (the smile at the end of “wait and just hear me out”), whose complementary textures and flows wind through the scenery without causing more than a ripple. I also have the attention span of a goldfish, so smooth rapping in the same cadence over any length of time can lull me into a state perfect for astral projection or a nap. This isn’t ideal for parties or getting work done, but is pretty ideal for laying around daydreaming, floating from voice to voice and thought to thought. 

William John: I went to Noname’s Melbourne show about ten days ago. It was a short set — perhaps 50 minutes in total, including an encore — and she played only three songs from the newly released Room 25, one of which was added to the setlist spontaneously and put the audience momentarily into the position of a voyeur in the rehearsal room. Despite my caveats, it was an enjoyable show, not least because Noname is one of rap’s most charismatic newcomers, and because Telefone, most of which was performed that night, has since its release been one of my favourite gloaming records — music to play on still, warm nights when dusk stretches long, while downing Negronis as the delights of the dark night grow near. “Ace,” too, is attuned to these same circumstances — a spirited, gorgeous posse cut that belies its drowsy tempo.

Anna Suiter: Noname’s verse cuts off like she’s being interrupted. It’s clever, but the problem is that Noname barely feels like she’s present in the song at all. Even if her verse should be the highlight, it doesn’t feel like she’s highlighted at all. The general mood of the track doesn’t make it easy to pull much out of it either.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: One’s appreciation for Room 25 will directly correspond to their opinion of Noname’s spoken word tendencies. As she adopts a more poetic lyricism and delivery, Phoelix’s production lays out an open canvas with which she can roam free. One shouldn’t confuse the album’s neo-soul leanings for objective maturation (lest they be victim to a gullible and untenable rockism), but it does alter the way one interacts with and responds to Noname herself. Such is the stark contrast between Telefone and Room 25 — both personal, both intimate, but different avenues through which we peer into the Chicago rapper’s psyche. “Ace” is the album’s most digestible track: standard single length, familiar features, recognizable hook. Frankly, it stands out for being one of her least personal tracks, hindered by a constricting structure that limits her voice’s capabilities. Her verse features a competent flow, but it tricks the listener into thinking she’s said something particularly noteworthy. Specifically, she relies on a spattering of words that act as signifiers for a vague cool, all of which tumbles into an accidental Chance impersonation in “Room 25 the best album that’s coming out.” Saba’s verse is similarly stiff, bringing the song to a complete halt when he delivers the only line that falls completely flat: “Since I left the road, I got more hits than a deer.” Smino’s “fuck is you saying?” is incredibly magnetic, but hearing it repeated four times within a single minute only drains it of its energy. All three rappers here have done better, and will continue to do better elsewhere; sometimes, a posse cut isn’t conducive to everyone’s strengths.

Micha Cavaseno: Dreary faux-gospel/R&B blends as repackaged by James Blake done by people who should know better, and rappers who meander into obnoxious precociousness to the point they sound less like they care about beats and more about backing for a poetry slam. Smino’s pinched delivery sounds utterly contrived, Noname’s murmury cast-asides act are the work of an ever more sophomoric pseud who can be mercifully less infantile and shrieky than collaborator Chance but likewise is a behemoth of agonizing pretense. Even Saba, usually colorful and capable, sounds fully committed to the youth pastor pap of this record, making it a slog if you happen to be the person for whom self-righteousness, even draped up in faux-humility, is an obnoxious cudgel of tedium.

Juan F. Carruyo: The main musical leitmotiv — a multitracked choir singing a jazzy chord progression — is enough to make me hear this 10 times in a row, but the young guns dropping words on top about what it takes to make it on your own in the music industry these days and how better off they are without any record label providing support is just the D.I.Y. dream come true. 

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: A few miraculous things about “Ace”: (1) the Noname/Smino/Saba/Phoelix (here relegated to just production duty) quartet, two years on from “Shadow Man,” still holds together, with an easy and lived-in camaderie. (2) Said quartet, despite the massively increased fame and attention the mid-west psuedo-spoken word rap scene has received since Chance the Rapper’s 2016, have not hardened or fallen into the vain self-seriousness that rappers frequently become mired in following breakthroughs. (3) In fact, they’re maybe even more fun than before, looser and freer after various sojourns to the West Coast. (4) Even given her guests’ best efforts, from Smino’s elastic-voiced hook to Saba’s double-timed come-up tales, Noname shines as the brightest light in “Ace”‘s constellation, weaving together a stream-of-consciousness flow that strings together globalization, weed, vegan food, and Chicago without ever feeling forced.

Reader average: [6] (3 votes)

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One Response to “Noname ft. Smino & Saba – Ace”

  1. BARS. would have given this a [10] but I fell behind.