As Black Lives Matter protests continue around the world, there’s some beef bubbling between two of America’s biggest rappers. Two days ago, J.Cole released an emotional surprise track ‘Snow On Tha Bluff’ sharing his struggles about how best to use his platform as a celebrity. He also, not so subtly, criticises someone for acting “holier” than those using their voice to support BLM and bring about change. It was his first single of the year and immediately sparked accusations that he was targeting rapper Noname, aka Fatimah Nyeema Warner, following her now-deleted tweets about rappers not being outspoken enough about anti-racism activism. “There’s something about the queen tone that’s bothering me,” J. Cole raps, “Just cos you woke and I’m not/ that shit ain’t no reason to act like you better than me.”
J.Cole’s opinion was divisive to say the least. Chance The Rapper was quick to defend Noname by accusing J.Cole of using “patriarchy and gaslighting as constructive criticism.”
And Noname hasn’t wasted any time in recording a response. She has come out with a new Madlib-produced track today, ‘Song 33’, which is an answer to J.Cole’s ‘diss’. She calmly and effectively dismisses the shots fired by J.Cole, referencing recent events such as the murder of activist Olawatoyin Salau and the subjugation of Black trans people in the US. In doing so, she diminishes Cole’s whines and refocuses on the important stuff (“He really ‘bout to right about me when the world is in smokes?”).
If you dissect the lyrics of ‘Song 33’, noname has so many reasons to dismiss J.Cole’s words against her. She starts the track by mirroring accusations against Cole of being patriarchal (“I saw a demon on my shoulder, it’s lookin’ like patriarchy”). noname quickly brings it back to the current climate, belittling his issue and suggesting that criticising her really shouldn’t have been on J.Cole’s ‘To Do’ list. Her lyrics are direct, too (“When George was beggin’ for his mother, saying he couldn’t breathe / You thought to write about me?”).
To her credit, she must have known people were waiting to hear her response and she has used this opportunity to inform listeners of what is actually important. She doesn’t shy away from setting the example for her peers to follow. She’s outspoken against a number of issues and wills others to do the same.
Neither party calls out the other by name but, in this case, noname doesn’t have to. Everyone knows who she is referring to. Her calm and collected flow, implying that despite J.Cole’s best efforts, she isn’t riled, just ashamed of him. She states the facts over a retro 90s beat and uses lyrics like “N****s in the back/Quiet as a church mouse” to add insult to injury. “Yo, but little did I know all my readin’ would be a bother / It’s trans women bein’ murdered and this is all he can offer?,” again belittling J.Cole’s petty beef in the wider context of the current climate.
She ends the track by stating,”I’m the new Vanguard”, further stating her claim as a thought leader and silencing any other critics that might be coming for her.
J.Cole must be feeling pretty small, on hearing ‘Song 33’. However, rather than issue an apology, he has taken to social media to share the track and state, “I stand behind every word of the song that dropped last night. Right or wrong I can’t say, but I can say it was honest”. He also said,”Follow @noname . 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***** like me just be rapping.”
Maybe Noname will have to set him straight again? She already shut him down in 70 seconds.