Let’s Take a Step Back From the Criticism: A Take on the Noname and J Cole Situation
Updated: Nov 22, 2020
Anti-black misogynist or Grammy-winning clap-backer? After dropping "Snow on Tha Bluff,” J. Cole had Black Twitter in a frenzy. People believed that Cole directed the song at Chicago rapper Noname, and many criticized the rapper for being tone deaf, considering the fact that racial tensions are at an all time high.
In the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, Noname criticized celebrities that were being silent, saying, “Y'all favorite top selling rappers not even willing to put a tweet up.”
She continued by saying that these same rappers have discographies about the black plight but are “nowhere to be found.” Before being deleted, the tweet was seen by many and interpreted to be about rappers like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole. So, it seems that "Snow on Tha Bluff" was a warranted response to Noname’s previous statements, but it outraged quite a large number of people, and for understandable reasons.
For starters, Cole raps, "It's something about the queen tone that’s bothering me." Anytime a black woman speaks their mind, most are always given the "angry black woman" stereotype, dissuading many from voicing their opinions. So the fact that Cole decided to check a black woman on her “tone,” during the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, is tone deaf.
In addition, Cole continues rapping, “She strike me as somebody blessed enough to grow up in a conscious environment / with parents that know 'bout the struggle for liberation and in turn they provide her with / a perspective and awareness of the system.”
Here, he’s basically crediting Noname’s knowledge (specifically about the black plight and what we need to do next) to her environment. Meanwhile, long-time fans of Noname know that this simply is not the case.
Back in 2019, she tweeted something in favor of capitalism and was quickly criticized and told to educate herself. And that she did, and has since spoken out about how capitalism is a system that does not support black people, all while creating a book club to help educate other people.
Essentially, Noname has done the hard work that it takes to educate herself, and members of Twitter are wondering why J Cole is not doing the same? Why do some of us prefer others to teach us instead of teaching ourselves?
He raps, "Help come get us up to speed," which is not a problem, but it isn’t Noname or any other black person's responsibility to teach anyone. Even non-black people who consider themselves allies should take the time to educate themselves on these issues, instead of expecting somebody else to do the hard part for them.
The rest of "Snow on Tha Bluff" seems to be a plea for understanding that people go at different paces to educate themselves. Cole ends that he "isn’t doing enough." Personally, I do not think that J. Cole was attempting to put Noname in her place, and I agree that everyone has their own journey when it comes to learning.
A message that I think he wanted to convey was that you cannot jump to conclusions about what people are doing for the Black Lives Matter movement. Furthermore, shortly after Noname tweeted about certain silent celebrities, a photo surfaced of J. Cole at a protest, causing Noname to delete her tweet.
He also made valid points in his song, saying that if you want to lead, you can't be condescending to everyone that is not up to your speed, and how you can’t exclusively preach to everyone that shares your beliefs. However, he could have picked a better time or method to convey this to Noname.
In a time when our country is so divided, black women need our male counterparts by our sides more than ever, not publicly tearing us down. Just like how Cole sat down and had an interview with another rapper after he very publicly bashed his name for roughly two years, Cole could have had a similar sit down with Noname to voice his opinions and concerns. It seems that J. Cole needs to learn how to understand the complexity of such situations. The song was still great though.