Quiet, Sunday night? Not quite. Sunday night, the First Avenue Mainroom played host to two emerging voices in hip-hop, Arima Ederra and Noname. These two artists drew a nearly sold-out crowd to the iconic, star-covered venue.
Opening up the evening was Los Angeles-based Ethiopian singer/songwriter and visual artist Arima Ederra. Ederra is one of those rare artists who hooks you from the moment she opens her mouth and outflows mellow, dreamy soulful vocals. Not knowing much about Ederra before last night, other than she was on tour with Noname – I found myself completely enraptured with Ederra. Her set was both dark and brooding and light and airy. She seamlessly blended elements of poetry/spoken word in her lyrical content, and blues/jazz inspired guitar, and an overall reggae/dancehall feel.
Ederra is one you really can’t take your eyes off of. She demands she be listened to, demands attention and demands the listener to be fully present, a rare ability not often seen from such a young artist. At one point Ederra took a seat on her stool and gently shh-ed the packed main room for one of her quieter songs. It’s rare to see an artist with such a command of the room. As a quiet, thoughtful, singer/songwriter, it can be easy to lose command of a room the size of First Ave – but Ederra’s astute awareness of the crowd and ability to enrapture an entire room speak to both her maturity and complexity of an artist. This is Ederra’s first ever tour but she has an aura of an artist who’s been doing this for years. It truly felt as if Ederra was made for the stage, as much as the stage was made for Ederra.
A standout from her set was the hilarious, tongue-in-cheek song, simply titled “Drugs.” “But it’s not what you think,” Ederra said. “It’s about not having money to buy drugs,” she continued. “And specifically weed. My mom’s birthday is two days before Valentine’s Day and a few years ago I went all out and bought her a birthday present and a valentine’s day present because our moms are amazing.” The crowd erupted with laughter and applause.
Though this was Ederra’s first tour, and after Sunday’s flawless set we have a feeling it won’t be the last.
Headlining the evening was Chicago-based poet & hip hop artist Noname. Also known as Fatimah Nyeema Warner, Noname is making waves in the world of both hip-hop and pop at large, at just 26-years-young. Noname first gained a widespread acclaim with her appearance on “Lost” off Chance the Rapper’s 2013 release of the Acid Rap mixtape. Following this breakout with Chance the Rapper, 2016 saw the release of Noname’s debut mixtape Telefone, which she spent three years producing. To say that Noname is on a come-up would be an understatement. Noname seems to have been in the incubator and is now breaking loose for the world to see.
Minneapolis was just one of many stops on the Everything is Everything tour, but her nearly sold-out set at the First Ave Mainroom was definitely a step up from the last time she was in Minneapolis, next door at the tiny 7th Street Entry.
After witnessing the powerhouse that is Noname, it’s evident that this upwards trajectory Noname is on has no end in site. Let me preface what I am about to say next with the fact that I have been fortunate enough to cover a little over 130 shows in 2017. Twin Cities Media at large has covered a little over 400 shows. Noname’s Sunday night might just go down as one of my favorite and most memorable of 2017. There was an energy, a charisma, a raw antenna-to-God talent that Noname possessed that was unlike anything I had seen before. At her core – a poet, words seem to flow out of Noname in a way that can only be described as otherworldly. Noname’s lyrical content thoughtfully, provocatively and at times hilariously explores both interpersonal experiences as well as the struggles of a young, black woman in today’s world, the culture and gentrification of Chicago, God and life itself. Her set was both thought-provoking and quiet, like a slam poetry night, and at other times loud, bass-booming sounds that demanded to be danced to. Noname’s ability to toe the line of the serious and the carefree, the heartfelt and the heartless, the
Noname’s sound is that distinctive breed of Chicago hip-hop that we are largely seeing pioneered by Chance The Rapper. It’s big, it’s loud, driven by a full band – drums, guitars, keys, backing vocalists. The raps are tight, sharp, punctuated – it’s the city that gave us one of the biggest rappers of our generation, after all, Kanye West. Again, it’s raps are also deeply thought provoking and complex – political. Chicago is also the city that gave us our first black president. And it’s also a city that is perhaps one of the most complex – racially, politically, culturally. It’s a city that has been colored by police brutality, an underfunded school system, government corruption, and overall politically tumultuous climate. But it’s also a city full of art, music, poetry, and culture. Noname’s music somehow blends all of this – the good and the bad, the beautiful and the ugly of Chicago – and the result is something amazing.
Noname’s set at First Avenue is not one I will quickly forget. It was one of those set’s that will stick with me. To say Noname left her mark on Minneapolis last night would be an understatement.
Noname continues her Everything is Everything Tour, Monday night in Madison.