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Noname - Sundial (Album Review)

Wednesday, 16 August 2023 Written by Tom Morgan

Though Noname has built her short but acclaimed career on a compassionate and likeable brand of hip-hop, the Chicago native is no stranger to controversy. She’s feuded with J. Cole, has briefly retired and is currently taking heat for the content of Jay Electronica’s verse on her latest album ‘Sundial’.

It has to be addressed before anything else: the lyrics of Electronica’s spot on the otherwise brilliant Balloons are seriously questionable. His verse references several antisemitic tropes and Noname’s choice to include it, given her vocal commitment to social justice, has been heavily criticised.

It’s unfortunate, because ‘Sundial’ is a terrific album, not least for Noname’s jazzy instrumentals. Toxic rides a simple, lucid rhythm, Namesake is outlandishly funky while Oblivion pushes a gorgeous bassline to the front of its mix.

In an intriguing contrast, the lyrics are nowhere near as easygoing. Going even deeper than on 2018’s ‘Room 25’, Noname’s effortless rhymes overflow with bite and venom. Toxic eviscerates a previous partner, Hold Me Down smashes hierarchies and Namesake interrogates its creator’s own hypocrisy.

There are some absolutely sensational rhymes here (“we too can cause harm, we really should link arms/they already take arms, a factory, fake farms”) as well as elite guest stars such as Common and Billy Woods. It’s beset by contradictions, but that somehow makes ‘Sundial’ all the more human.


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