I got a flight in thirty minutes; I could burn a Wood in here?” Tia Nomore asks her driver on the intro to “The Heights,” the first track from her new, debut album, Holloween (Stoop Kids Music Group). The project is full of colorful rhymes and production that unites Nineties g-funk; trunk-rattling, hyphy-era slaps; and forward-thinking pop sensibilities. In its opening skit, the rapper sparks up a blunt and prepares to head to the Oakland airport, positioning herself as a jet-setting, slick-talking young boss — a persona she cultivates throughout Holloween’s fifteen tracks.
Holloween, which Nomore released May 20, was a long time coming. The 21-year-old rapper from Oakland’s Chinatown became a mandatory topic of discussion in 2014 with her ex-boyfriend-slandering track, “Suck It Easy.” The viral hit earned her a spot on rap blog Thizzler.com‘s Bay Area Freshman 10 list, an annual inventory of emerging, local talent that has since been discontinued. And even though fans implored Nomore to release more material, she took her time. Now, two years later, she has formally introduced herself to a larger audience with Holloween, a polished album that positions the young rapper as a force to be reckoned with in the Bay Area and beyond.
In a 2015 interview with the Express, Nomore admitted, “I’m at this point where I’m still getting used to my voice.” Holloween is evidence that she has found her way in that regard, but the artist still pays homage to her gamed-up forbearers throughout the project. “Camry’s,” one of three songs that she shared as part of an EP that preceded the album last December, maps out Nomore’s origin story. I had a thing for them rims on that Chevy Caprice, she remembers before conjuring images of hot-boxed Toyotas with Mac Dre in the tape deck. But Nomore’s eclectic influences go beyond what’s typical for Nineties kids from Oakland: She shouts out 3X Krazy as well as Iggy Pop.
Nomore’s mentor, Exclusive, produced the entirety of Holloween, and his beats sparingly play on nostalgia for hyphy-influenced bangers. On “7th Letter” and “User,” he employs electronic effects and reverse-kicks that wouldn’t sound out of place on a record by Justin Bieber or alt-R&B group The Internet. In these moments, Nomore showcases her ability to craft the type of hooks that could propel her beyond regional acclaim.
The features on Holloween are a showcase of Nomore’s contemporaries: HBK Gang’s Show Banga and Skipper make appearances, and Chippass and Nikotine — of seminal late-Aughts Oakland group NhT Boyz — also show up. These additions are hit or miss: Show Banga and G Val both give strong contributions to “What It’s Hittin’ Fo’,” but the listener is left to wonder what Nomore could have done with the hook on the anthemic beat of “Mayday” if she hadn’t delegated it to Chippass.
The overarching — and most effective — lyrical theme of Holloween is an inversion of the classic pimp-rap tropes that Too $hort first harnessed to put Oakland on the map. “New Rules” lays out Nomore’s game plan for getting over on men who consider themselves players; Max Julien’s oft-sampled lines from Oakland-based pimp flick The Mack lead into Nomore’s bars on “Deserved.” You just a man/You ain’t my OG, she clarifies on “Check 4 Me,” making it known that she’s about her dollars first and foremost.
Nomore isn’t the first Oakland woman to flip this power dynamic on the mic: Cassidine was heralded as the female Too $hort after the release of her 1988 debut album, Man Handler. Tenda Tee rapped “My Gangsta Turned Trick” in 1993. With Holloween, Nomore places herself in the matrilineage of these unsung pioneers. And if the range of her debut is any indication, she may soon have the opportunity to take her sound much further.
Holloween is a promising project from a young rapper who has the unique ability to make her listeners feel like they grew up with her, and tracks like “Check 4 Me” and “7th Letter” are examples of Nomore’s capacity to keep her game-spitting content consistent while adjusting her flows and melodies to allow for fresh sounds. But looking to Nomore’s local contemporaries Kamaiyah and Nef the Pharaoh, who both got their buzz from breakout singles, one is left to wonder where a full-length project like Holloween will leave the young rapper when it comes to the larger market. But if we learned anything from Holloween, Nomore is a hustler with prodigious talent, and it will be fascinating to see how her career unfolds.