How the Noname/J. Cole Controversy Speaks on Celebrity Culture

There’s been some controversy on the Twitter timeline this week. I’m not talking about police brutality or global humanitarian crises. No, I’m talking about J. Cole and Noname. So… That’s where we’re at now.

I didn’t want to get into it because I felt like this was derailing from the overall movement… BUT I’ve come to realize that much like the Black Lives Matter movement, this “beef” is just a result of issues that have been floating under the surface for decades. I’ve listened to both songs and I need to tell y’all something: Noname was right and J. Cole blew it out of proportion.

Noname and J. Cole

Some Background

Y’all remember a couple months back, before the Black Lives Matter movement started trending and the only protesters out here were the ones demanding haircuts? Well during that short-lived period when the U.S. actually cared about the pandemic, Twitter was popping off every day about a celebrity.

The first one I think of from this era is Lana Del Ray, but Cancel Culture has been around for a hot minute now. After Lana, we started hearing about Doja Cat and her mess. It was getting to the point where everyone was getting called out for something or other because we were all at home with nothing better to do. When the Lana and Doja controversies were really blazing, people starting questioning the notion of “celebrity” to begin with.

Why are we looking up to these people that WE have made rich as guides for how to live our lives? Why does Stan culture ride so hard for these people (don’t we remember that music video)? Why are people personally offended when an artist they enjoy does some foul mess?

Then the video of George Floyd brought the issue of police brutality front and center. We took a step back from cancelling artists to address more pressing matters. But as the movement grew and certain celebrities stayed silent, people began calling out those who weren’t using their platforms to spread the word.

Here’s when I first heard about Noname:

Noname tweet about rappers

The tweet got some traction. Keep in mind, people were being called out for this already. At this point it, the people getting called out were celebrities who profit off of black culture and were suddenly being real quiet. There wasn’t much said about the black folks profiting off black plight, the only black folks being called out were the coons. For Noname to say this, well let’s just say that some people took it real personally.

A few weeks went by. The protests didn’t let up and we started seeing people’s true colors. Some of those top selling rappers, actors, and the CEOs of Ben and Jerry’s were out on the front-lines protesting while other celebrities stayed home and posted black squares without opening their purses. It was a telling time.

The Turning Point

Then, on June 16th, J. Cole drops Snow on Tha Bluff. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t really listen to Cole like that. My personal faves are Tobe Nwigwe, Black Smoke, and I vibe to some 6lack (yes six lack) every now and then. I wanted to stay out of it because my focus was the racial controversy happening in the book blogging community but that’s besides the point.

So, I ignored it. At least I tried to, up until I saw the slander of black women on my timeline and that’s just something I can’t stand for. As Malcolm X said, “The most disrespected person in America is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the black woman. The most neglected person in America is the black woman.”

I don’t want to tell you what to believe, that’s a decision you have to make for yourself, but I’m willing to help you get there. Let’s start off with the lyrics:

J. Cole Snow on Tha Bluff Lyrics
J. Cole Snow on Tha Bluff Lyrics
J. Cole Snow on Tha Bluff Lyrics

The argument against J. Cole is that he was being real misogynistic and calling out Noname’s tone instead of focusing on the movement. The way he speaks on this unnamed woman being mad seems to speak more on her anger than the issues she’s angry about. The reference to her being mad at capitalists is one of the major reasons people believe it to be Noname because she is very vocal about her anti-capitalist viewpoint.

The argument in favor of J. Cole is that people were out here assuming it was about Noname and that Cole is just asking to be educated. They often note that he calls her “Queen” and is admitting that he isn’t as educated as people think. Those in favor of J. Cole often comment on this song as one of vulnerability and a call for help in learning about how to move forward. This revolution is something that we haven’t seen, especially to this extent, before.

Here’s the thing though, it’s not a black woman’s job to educate you. But even if she wants to, Noname literally started a book club for that.

Noname’s Response

Two days later, Noname released Song 33 in response. Here are the lyrics to that too:

Noname Song 33 lyrics
Noname Song 33 lyrics

In Song 33, Noname calls out the misogyny while steering the conversation back to important matters. She addresses the fact that Toyin, a 19-year-old UF student, was murdered recently in Tallahassee. “One girl missing another one go missing” refers to the fact that black women and girls go missing at an alarming rate. Many of these cases are girls coerced into sex trafficking or other abusive situations. The majority of these girls are never found.

That last line about being the new vanguard? Well, it seems that Noname is accepting her role as a leader within the movement, something Cole said he wasn’t ready or willing to do.

I’m going to end this analysis with a tweet that I think really speaks to the situation in a succinct manner:

Noname had every right to say what she said. She didn’t ask J. Cole to drop that song and she certainly didn’t ask for the movement to get derailed. In truth, this was partly a result of celebrity culture and the way it’s overtaken people’s opinions. The misogyny in the rap community is also a huge factor in this. Noname was speaking her truth and someone took it a little too personally.

What are your thoughts?

Are you on Noname or J. Cole’s side?

Let’s have a discussion in the comments!

Here are a few things I’d suggest checking out if you want to learn more about Cancel Culture, the issues with celebrity culture, and how Chance the Rapper got involved:

3 thoughts on “How the Noname/J. Cole Controversy Speaks on Celebrity Culture

  1. I think there are faults on both sides. The tweet that J. Cole probably felt the need to respond to was one where Noname said any male celebrity who wasn’t speaking out about the violence against the black trans community is essentially a white supremacist by compliance. I personally think this statement was way too linear of thinking, ex. Dave Chappelle in his 826 video. I don’t think it was necessary for Cole to drop a whole song and could’ve handled it differently if he felt so attacked, but both artists have a point. No it’s not black women’s job to educate others about how to be activists but if those black women choose to educate like Noname they can definitely do it without demeaning others in a radical way.

    Liked by 1 person

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