Your lyrics are very personal, but you made a concerted effort to stay out of the public eye when your album, Telefone, dropped in July. Why?
It’s hard for me to be vulnerable in my personal life, so it ends up coming out tenfold in my music. But if I’m already being vulnerable in my music, I don’t feel like I should also have to do an interview.
Telefone deals with the trials of growing up on the South Side, but it’s a hopeful album. Where does that come from?
The people—my friends, my family, the sense of community. It’s weird, you’re growing up in this space where you see a lot of heavy things, but you’re also still able to be a kid and go to summer camps or city programs and be a part of art in a real way in the city.
Why did you drop “Gypsy” from your stage name?
I was part of a rap group where all of us had “Gypsy” at the end of our names—I couldn’t think of a name, so I was Noname Gypsy. Then, a year ago, I started getting emails from fans saying they were hurt that someone who makes music like me would use a racial slur. I had no idea what that word means to the Romany people.
So it didn’t have anything to do with feeling nomadic?
No, it did. At that time, I was displaced. I had a place to live, but I was doing a bunch of drugs and constantly moving. In those moments, I didn’t have anything to rely on outside of my artist friends. We used our art to find home when we felt like misfits or not wanted.
Young Chicago artists seem to be having a moment. What do you think accounts for the creative outpouring?
Chicago is a beautiful city, but it can be extremely brutal. Art grows in places where there’s a lot of sadness or corruption or death. The negatives and positives of Chicago are very present. That’s the magic of it.