Noname Gypsy stumbles through vibrant Lower Sproul performance

Zach Ryan/Staff

It’s understandable why Noname Gypsy might have felt nervous on stage. During her ASUC SUPERB performance last Saturday, UC Berkeley students subtly grooved in Lower Sproul to the Chicago female rapper’s soothing, fluttering verses. Yet, Noname Gypsy constantly wrestled with the fact that most of her college audience probably recognized her name because of her hit collaborations with Chance the Rapper, the more famous rapper to emerge out of Chicago’s blossoming alternative hip-hop scene.

Noname Gypsy’s headlining concert was only a short moment of Black History Month Carnival — an all-day celebration that had been co-organized by ASUC SUPERB, the LEAD Center and the African-American Student Development Office (AASD). Her own performance was preceded by a family-friendly half-hour of line dancing to an eclectic array of songs — from the staple hit “Cha Cha Slide” to T-Pain’s “Bartender.”

Noname continued to channel this community-oriented positivity when she stepped on stage. Before her first rap, she cheerfully made small talk with her audience: “The sun is on me right now — that’s wild!”

The rapper began her performance with her own songs such as “Dizzy,” a tribute to the jazz artist Dizzy Gillespie. Her verses on “Dizzy” attest to her impressive talents as a rapper: intricate wordplay; a soft, breezy voice that seems to drift through her stream-of-consciousness; and her meditations on intersectionality as an African-American woman. She powerfully asks, “Thinking about my wedding dress and the violence in the city / What if my soul man already been shot?”

Yet, from the earliest parts of the show, Noname seemed to have a distracted and scattered state of mind. At one point, Noname decided to rap a capella after she awkwardly admitted to missing the right beat to start, but she also stuttered over her words during the a capella.

Noname constantly worried that her audience was not paying attention to her music. She commented on the lack of dancing: “It’s O.K. if you move your body a little bit.” Although her music definitely offered a slowed down, bob-your-head kind of groove, Noname took the audience’s calm mood as a negative reaction.

The crowd’s excitement was most palpable when she performed “Lost” and “Warm Enough.” The songs no doubt deserved some cheers, because they are some of her biggest hits, but the crowd’s excitement was the manifestation of Noname’s biggest anxieties. After all, these are hit songs she has performed with Chance the Rapper. At one point, Noname explicitly lamented that the crowd recognized her guest verses but not her own music.

The rapper rushed through most of her set, and these songs seemed to last for only a minute before their abrupt endings. Noname performed her second-to-last song, “Free at Last,” before hurrying off set, and the song title captured her anxious mood.

Noname seemed to be in such a hurry to leave that she’d forgotten to sing her actual closing song. She came back to perform “All I Need,” a highlight track off her upcoming debut mixtape, Telefone.

With “All I Need,” Noname finally achieved the audience reaction that she’d wished for the entire time. People swayed and chanted, not because the song featured Chance the Rapper. It was just an irresistibly catchy song. The artist herself had a naturally radiant smile.

Hopefully, Noname Gypsy can dispel her own anxiety and realize how much potential she has to be a star. After all, with just two songs on her Soundcloud, the artist is still in the early stages of her career, so she is still in the process of garnering her own fanbase. The soulful finale of her ASUC SUPERB concert shows that, when Noname Gypsy finally has a chance to sing her own song, she’ll have the whole crowd singing with her.

Contact Jason Chen at [email protected].