If you were at Emo's on Wednesday night, you weren't what Noname expected.
The 27-year-old Chicago native walked onto the stage rapping and didn't stop to breathe until she'd spit out three songs. Because they included crowd favorites "Diddy Bop" and "Self," things were off to a strong start. When she paused to breathe during the spiritual "Prayer Song," her backup singers weren't the only ones chanting "Amen, amen."
We were with you, Noname.
Halfway through the show, however, things took a turn. Noname, whose slam poetry roots can be heard in every line, stopped mid-song to face the crowd and ask "Is anybody out there?"
She didn't wait to gauge the response. Instead she continued: "We're gonna try this again. Help me out this time."
But the second time around, acoustic, with just Noname's cadence to carry the beat, the verse still didn't sit right with her. Shaking her head, and seemingly shaking it off, she launched into "Regal," a song off her latest album, "Room 25."
The rest of the show went much of the same way. Noname prodding the crowd, the responsive "Woooo!" and then her visible dissatisfaction with the level of energy and participation in what felt like a full Emo's.
I wondered if Noname might be a little too used to the type of crowd she encountered in Austin. Young, hip and more concerned with lengthening their Instagram story than rapping along. Just because Noname did a Tiny Desk Concert doesn't mean she's content with an NPR energy level from her audience.
She's been called "underrated." Her rise has been called "quiet." That's the kind of narrative someone might get tired of. What's underrated about a second album yielding acclaim across the board? What's quiet about making your debut on Chance the Rapper's mixtape?
Noname repeats it again and again in "Self": "Y'all really thought a (expletive) couldn't rap huh?" In fact, she asked the Emo's crowd directly: "Do you all know what it looks like when someone is rapping their (expletive) off?"
Despite her obvious frustration, Noname made time for gratitude. She ended her short encore after a short show by saying "You could be literally anywhere else. This is dope. Thank you."
But maybe you could have also been just a little more, Austin.