You can always tell the scope of an artist’s influence by the intensity of the reactions elicited by their music. For J. Cole, who emerged to drop his first song of the year last night with “Snow On Tha Bluff,” a contemplative reflection on the recent Black Lives Matter protests, as well as an analysis of his own responsibilities. By now, it’s been documented that the song features a response of sorts to Chicago rapper Noname, who has been vocal in her desire for a revolution against systemic racism and critical of those she deems to be apathetic.
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Given how prominently the topic is covered, it’s clear that something Noname said must have bothered Cole, most likely a Tweet she wrote on May 29th: “Poor black folks all over the country are putting their bodies on the line in protest for our collective safety, and y’all favorite top-selling rappers not even willing to put a tweet up. N***a’ whole discographies be about black plight, and they nowhere to be found.”
While he made sure to specify that he has love for Noname, he did clarify some of his issues with her chosen tone and message. “She mad at these crackers, she mad at these capitalists, mad at these murder police,” he raps, in the opening bars. “She mad at my n***s, she mad at our ignorance, she wear her heart on her sleeve / she mad at the celebrities, lowkey I be thinkin’ she talkin’ ’bout me.”
Upon the track’s release, many listeners found themselves divided. Where some appreciated Cole’s perspective and willingness to engage in difficult conversations in a respectful manner, others felt he was “tone policing” and engaging in subtle misogyny. It didn’t take long for both Cole and Noname to start trending, with some extreme parties even attempting to spark a “Cancel J. Cole” movement, though it struggled to gain even an inch of momentum. Still, enough people took issue with Cole’s stance that the rapper himself took to social media to stand by his message, further clarifying his position and imploring the masses to be gentle with one another. Whether that’s possible on Twitter is another story.