Noname’s “Shadow Man” featuring Phoelix, Saba, and Smino poses how to deal with death.
Set to a mellow beat reminiscent to neo-soul, “Shadow Man” starts with a brief introduction (“Bless the nightingale / Darkness keep you well”).
Noname draws an interesting juxtaposition. A nightingale has historically been used as a symbol of love in fiction, but it’s used more sinisterly in this track. However, there is still an eerily peaceful feeling placed over the concept of death.
The Chicago upstart proceeds to describe her dream funeral, making references to the 27 Club, Kanye West’s The College Dropout, and her previous moniker of Noname Gypsy. Despite the fact that she’s narrating her own funeral, Noname ends her verse seemingly at peace with her death.
Saba, best known for his feature on Chance the Rapper’s “Angels,” comes in next. His flow is the most distinct on the track, adding little pauses to emphasize certain words. He maintains the funeral theme, but he’s an onlooker Funeral home lookin like a home that I used to live in / You wasn’t supposed to go so soon I took it for granted”).
Smino continues to add to the Midwestern flavor of “Shadow Man.” The St. Louis native is depicting funerals as a celebration of life (“It’s gon be niggas boomin’ at my funeral / Tell em play Metro Boomin’ at my funeral”). He wants his to be a big turnup, instead of the sad occasion that we’ve come to associate with funerals.
Both SABA and Smino’s features add to the song, instead of making themselves the main focus. Their soft vocals synchronize with the airy beat and further accentuate Noname’s delicate flow.
As for Noname, “Shadow Man” shows off the wide range of subjects she draws inspiration from. Noname’s origins are rooted in poetry, hence her way with words when it comes to hip hop. She’s able to merge literature with cultural happenings in a way that differentiates from Chicago’s other rising stars.