The spotlight shines brighter than the sun on a cloudless noon, but who it shines upon changes by the day, at times by the hour. It’ll glow upon both the one-hit wonders destined to dance with the stars and the talented geniuses that can turn an apple into a global enterprise.
To acquire all the gifts and curses of fame, one must stand in that spotlight and accept the lust-filled eyes of the world. Each passing day, there’s a new rapper or artist attracted to that light like a moth, trying to reach that point, believing that they have what it takes to stand before the eyes of the world with their talent. Some make it by extreme effort, others by connection and money, some stumble into the position almost by accident. There’s also rappers whose words will only reach the ears that listen to the sounds thumping in the underground. Some want the spotlight, others only want to pay their light bill, each comes with its own pros and cons, benefits and trials, but you have to decide. There’s been one rapper on my mind who seems to be caught in a limbo of the two.
“I wanna help people,I wanna be rich,I wanna be the Bob Marley of this rap music" - NoName Gypsy's Paradise
The first time I heard Noname Gypsy, it was love at first listen. She appeared as a guest on Chance The Rapper’s “Lost,” delivering the final verse in the form of poignant poetry that is simply unforgettable. She didn’t renegade the Chancellor, it wasn’t a battle of the bars, but two artists collaborating to make a song complete. Without her, the song would be missing part of its soul. I wish every time an unknown artist would appear on a highly-anticipated album, a song like “Lost” would be the result. By her final line I was asking myself, “Who is she?” That question lead me to Twitter where an avatar of a cartoon of a young, black woman holding a microphone awaited me. There was also a bunny rabbit in a hoodie and a man wearing a mask that looks DOOM inspired. I assumed she was hiding her identity, another artist shrouded in secrecy.
She wasn’t the only feature from Acid Rap that I had to search, Vic Mensa and Saba were the other two whose presence glowed with promise. That album foretold who would be worth watching in the coming months. It was safe to assume that these three would be aiding Chance and the countless others leading the new age Chicago renaissance. I was rooting for her the most, it was that verse. The blogs were reacting like I was, if there was more music from here, the world would know, right? She wouldn’t be a no name for long.
In September, five months after destroying "Cocoa Butter Kisses" and delivering praiseworthy singles, Vic dropped the anticipated Innanetape and in July of 2014 Saba liberated ComfortZone, receiving ovation. Unfortunately, the nameless Gypsy gave fans the Detox answer - coming soon. I didn’t find any solo material when I casually browsed the blogs, never searching for her, but awaiting her inevitable arrival on the top of pages. For two years she continued to be the dynamite feature, drifting from song to song leaving an unforgettable impression each time. Her closing verse on XVRHLDY’s “Black Alabaster” deserves its own highlight reel on ESPN. I think my favorite had to be the eloquent performance on Mick Jenkins’ “Comfortable.” Once again, on another album that had the internet’s full attention, she showcased the skills of a budding wordsmith that glowed brighter with each sweet sixteen.
In her “Comfortable” verse, she says, “I just wanna see your hands in the air and the fans in the stands and my name hella bright / Noname on the comeup, Telefone never coming out, what's the hold up? / Where you been at? Where the print at?” she acknowledges this dream she has of making it to the stage and the fact she is on come up, but is also mimicking the anxiousness of the very fans that she wants cheering for her. Where is Telefone? While I continue to hope that some solo material would arise from the ashes of the fiery features, nothing ever appeared. Her named started to seem more like an embodiment than a pseudonym. To never have a name, to never blow up, to be a free spirit that drifted from studio to studio, from song to song, making music with her friends. I couldn’t tell if she would be the Big Rube of the Chicago movement, lending her poetic prowess to fellow wordsmiths or the Andre 3000 that would eventually rise above all.
T: What do you see it as?
NG: I see it as a dream. Rapping to me is like—it’s like one of those things that you talk about when you’re a kid—like, “When I grow up I want to be…” ‘Cause I haven’t reached the level that I want to reach yet. I want to be a successful rapper. - General Admission Interview.
My fault was believing that the internet would ring the alarm if the scribe from “Lost” released any music after that appearance. This is the first time since 2 Girls 1 Cup that I actually felt like the web failed me. I spent the last two years waiting, not knowing that in 2013 a plethora of music from her found its way onto this information super traffic jam. I’m not sure if they were officially released, none of the accounts on YouTube or Soundcloud seem to have ties to her, but they are definitely NoName Gypsy. I guess all the blogs that wrote nothing but praise somehow missed the releases as well. Luckily, Watch Loud created a complete guide for those of us lost in the endless sauce. Out the batch, there are a few hidden treasures worth revisiting. Songs like “Paradise,” “Samaritan,” and “Sunday Morning.” The sound has a pleasant warmth, bright and colorful, pastel production that matches her purple prose. Her pen is very creative, able to go from a world's view to detailing her home of Chicago. It’s a glimpse into the young woman who is black and proud, who is insecure and learning to love herself, loves family and has a fleeting relationship with Mary Jane, awkward yet open-minded and free spirited, who makes music that is meant to make you feel good, secure, and more positive. Still rough around the edges but full of potential.
My goal in Hip-Hop is: To heal and inspire.
I’m gonna be the next: Important voice for young women in hip hop. Artist that helps push the culture forward. Rapper who writes something that changes somebody. Or something like that.
The old music lead me to her Soundcloud where she officially uploaded two songs last year. Who knew she had one? All the hours I’ve spent on social media and not once have I seen a Noname Gypsy link shared. I’m on the verge of unfollowing everyone. One of the songs is “Dizzy,” before the first verse ends she references Dizzy Gillespie, Khadija from “Living Single,” Common’s Like Water For Chocolate and confess her love for Jay Electronica. She’s whimsical, clever, and intelligent, her gentle voice moonwalks across the Tae Beast production. It’s next to impossible to hear this record once without the yearning to rewind. The other solo record, “Take You Back,” starts with, “If Spike Lee had a girlfriend who could rap she would be me,” reason enough to press play. She’s good, plays are high, comments are craving more, and the more I played the more I wondered what her next move would be.
“Mixtape ain't comin' out until Moses learn how to save me” - NoName Gypsy on Closed Session’s Realer Than Most
In 2015, she went on tour with Mick but sadly I missed their Atlanta stop. I haven’t heard anything about her stage presence (her Twitter is full of fans praising her performance) but once again, she acquired much deserved acclaim from myself and others for some incredible guest features. Donnie Trumpet’s “Warm Enough,” Chance The Rapper’s “Israel,” and Kirk Knight’s “Dead Friends,” all fell victim to her Gypsy touch. These three versus showcase a talent that should be causing an uproar.
She raps as if she writes her rhymes with a quill dipped in black ink, scribing over production with metaphors, allegories, and honesty. Hearing her rap reminds me of the sensation that a great poem will leave you with, mesmerized by the beauty and elegance of how the words are strung together. Rereading again and again to ensure that you truly comprehend the magic in the text. The talent can’t be denied, she is extremely gifted and bringing a perspective that feels fresh and her own.XXL, Complex and Times all stamped her early as a woman emcee worth checking for. You can create a Post Malone but you just can’t grab anyone off the street and expect a Noname Gypsy. Sadly, being talented doesn’t always equate to success. Reading her interviews, she wants success. She wants to achieve the dream that every artist is chasing. The fortune, the fame, the acclaim, and she also wants to leave the world with really good music. Is she trapped between the two?
We’re watching as Chance, Vic, Mick, and even Saba begin to truly become notable names in the music industry. I really want NoName Gypsy to be a part of that crew. Time and time again she has proved why she deserves to stand with the frontrunners. Unfortunately, she’s currently a couple steps behind and a few dollars short. The clock is always ticking, that spotlight is forever finding a new face to shine upon. More rappers disappear than magician assistants, I would hate for such a talent to only be remembered for assisting and never leading. I have no problem rooting for a rapper raised on Buddy Guy and Def Poetry Jam, who has love for Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, unafraid to speak on the trials and tribulations plaguing her home and the world, and still able to highlight the beauty of a Sunday morning. She has to give me something to root for. I can want success for her but that might not be the success she ultimately hopes to achieve. Hesitance is not a luxury for rappers. I don’t know much about her. I don’t know her story, I don’t what might be happening in her life, what obstacles could be hindering the process. Hell, I don’t even know her name.
Yet, I’m hoping that she finds her way into the spotlight. I haven't forgotten.