It’s been more than a year since J. Cole released his last single, and despite the buzz and hype surrounding his surprise June 16 release, Snow on Tha Bluff, the American rapper has received widespread criticism as a result of its lyrical content.
In the acoustic-backed rap track, the 35-year-old musician addresses the ongoing anti-racism and anti-police-brutality protests triggered by the killing of George Floyd last month.
However, J. Cole is facing backlash because the song focuses on expressing disdain for a person who fans have speculated is fellow American rapper Noname.
Last month, Noname, 28, spoke out in a series of since-deleted tweets calling out celebrity rappers for not participating in protests or using their platforms to speak out against racism, according to Complex.
“Poor Black folks all over the country are putting their bodies on the line in protest for our collective safety and y’all favourite top-selling rappers not even willing to put a tweet up,” she reportedly wrote on the social media platform.
On Snow on Tha Bluff, Cole raps: “There’s something about the queen tone that’s botherin’ me.”
“Just ’cause you woke and I’m not, that s—t ain’t no reason to talk like you better than me … There’s a reason it took like 200 years for our ancestors just to get freed,” he adds.
Though Noname is never explicitly named in the song, fans were quick to make the connection, with some calling the lyrics “demeaning.”
“I scrolled through her timeline in these wild times and I started to read / She mad at these crackers, she mad at these capitalists, mad at these murder police / She mad at my n—as, she mad at our ignorance, she wear her heart on her sleeve / She mad at the celebrities, low key I be thinkin’ she talking ’bout me,” Cole raps on the track.
Cole later addressed the speculation that his lyrics were written about Noname in a series of tweets on Wednesday, neither admitting nor denying that she was the subject of the song but suggesting his fans follow the rapper on social media.
“Follow @noname, he wrote. “I love and honour 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.”
In an earlier tweet, Cole also wrote: “Some assume to know who the song is about. That’s fine with me. It’s not my job to tell anybody what to think or feel about the work.”
In response to Snow on Tha Bluff, Noname took to the platform herself, simply writing: “QUEEN TONE!!!!!!” The tweet, however, has since been deleted.
Some called the musician a “misogynist” for allegedly taking aim at Noname.
“Wow, just found out J. Cole is a misogynist who hates Black women and wants them all to shut the f—k up,” wrote another user. “Thanks, Twitter.”
Despite the mass wave of criticism, Cole wrote: “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.
“I don’t feel well equipped as a leader in these times,” wrote the Middle Child rapper. “But I do a lot of thinking.”
Cole continued: “I appreciate (Noname), and others like her because they challenge my beliefs and I feel that in these times that’s important.
“We may not agree with each other but we gotta be gentle with each other,” he ended his Twitter thread.
At the end of Snow on Tha Bluff, Cole says that despite being recognized and praised by fans for his music and “what (he’s) been doin'” he feels “faker than snow on the bluff.”
“Deep down, I know I ain’t doing enough,” Cole raps in the final line of the four-minute track.
While J. Cole has become the subject of major controversy, it seems the release of Snow on Tha Bluff has left fans in a divide, as many also took to Twitter defending Cole and show their support of his “honesty.”
Some even shared pictures of the rapper attending a Black Lives Matter protest, commending him for taking action against racism.
Snow on Tha Bluff is now available through all major streaming platforms.