Fatimah Warner’s verified Twitter page is an endless sprawl of revolutionary reading material (she’s been studying Karl Marx), a bulletin of global atrocities (LGBTQ activists in Ghana are living in fear of violent persecution, don’t you know), and a celebration of advocates and activists (Nina Simone and communist writer Claudia Jones, recently). With only four songs released since her last album as the rapper Noname, 2018’s triumphant Room 25, Warner has been engaging fans, detractors, and spectators in her radical education. On the internet, she behaves more like a peer (a comrade, one might say) than as an artist, so much so that she tweeted “lmao i don’t even know how to promote myself as a rapper anymore,” about a month before her song “Rainforest” hit streaming platforms today.
Noname’s cerebral output usually speaks for itself; in pre-pandemic times, she sold out intimate tours and made the bill at huge festivals. “Rainforest” enters the conversation with swirly bars on mortality and capitalism with lust lurking between them. The lust is not for capitalism, of course — “It’s fuck they money/I’ma say it every song,” she pledges — but perhaps for a lover an Uber ride away, for skin-on-skin, for sweat-on-sweat. With the instrumentation of a sultry ballroom band, “Rainforest” finds the heady poet yearning for a dance, a quick reprieve from more pressing matters like disassembling the American empire.
If you let her, Warner can teach you a lot about freedom through her tweets or her book club that champions liberatory texts by people of color — maybe even better than through her songs that marry clarity and code. “Dyin’ on stolen land for a dollar like that ain’t fucked up” is one of her new song’s easier messages to imbibe, but you’d need a little background to appreciate her allusions to Frantz Fanon and Huey P. Newton. Still, it’s admirable — and important — that her politics live in her music. Whether you’re on the front lines of revolution, or you just want to dance, or you’re somewhere in between, “Rainforest” is a dazzling offering from a sparse MC with incredible tact, a strong sense of purpose, and a lot of heart.
Find a playlist of all of our recent Songs You Need to Know selections on Spotify.