Over the past few weeks, as demonstrations in all 50 states and abroad have gone hand-in-hand with a slate of new protest music, artists like Denzel Curry, YG, and H.E.R. have released new songs that grapple with police brutality and racial injustice.
On Tuesday night (June 16), J. Cole released a sparse new song called “Snow on tha Bluff.” It doesn’t take aim at the police, but shortly after its release, fans connected its words to Chicago rapper Noname, who had tweeted about “y’all favorite top selling rappers not even willing to put a tweet up” to support the demonstrations that had begun at the end of May, shortly after the killing of George Floyd.
Cole seemingly addresses this message directly on “Snow on tha Bluff,” rapping, “She mad at the celebrities / Low-key I be thinking she talking about me,” and later:
Now I ain’t no dummy to think I’m above criticism
So when I see something that’s valid, I listen
But shit, it’s something about the queen tone that’s bothering me
Fans quickly made the connection between those words and Noname’s message. On Thursday morning, Cole explained himself further in a series of tweets that led off with, “I stand behind every word of the song that dropped last night.” He also shouted out Noname by name and encouraged people to follow her: “I love and honor her as a leader in these times. She has done and is doing the reading and the listening and the learning on the path that she truly believes is the correct one for our people. Meanwhile a n—a like me just be rapping.”
As Pitchfork points out, Noname apparently reacted to the song in a since-deleted tweet that echoed one of Cole’s lines in the song: “QUEEN TONE!!!!!!”
“Snow on tha Bluff” also features Cole asking the subject of his song to adjust the way the message is being sent:
Just ’cause you woke and I’m not
That shit ain’t no reason to talk like you better than me
How you gonna lead
When you attacking the very same n—as that really do need
The shit that you saying?
This is something Cole addressed in a tweet in the same thread: “I haven’t done a lot of reading and I don’t feel well equipped as a leader in these times. But I do a lot of thinking. And I appreciate her and others like her because they challenge my beliefs and I feel that in these times that’s important.” He closed out with a plea to “be gentle with each other.”
Around the end of May, Cole was spotted by a fan at a protest wearing a face mask. Check out “Snow on tha Bluff” in full above, then see Cole’s full statement in tweets right here.