The track addresses a “young lady” who Cole describes as “way smarter” than him, and many fans believe he was talking about Chicago rapper Noname.
Noname recently posted a tweet, which is now deleted, criticizing artists for not doing enough in the movement against police violence and systematic racism. The tweet, which was quoted by Complex, reads, “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— whole discographies be about black plight and they no where to be found.”
It’s possible J. Cole believed Noname was talking about him because in his song “Snow On Tha Bluff” he raps:
“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 niggas, 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.”
Cole then went on to say that the “tone” of the person he’s referring to bothered him.
“But shit, it’s something about the queen tone that’s botherin’ me,” Cole rapped. “She strike me as somebody blessed enough to grow up in conscious environment/ With parents that know ’bout the struggle for liberation and in turn they provide her with/ A perspective and awareness of the system and unfairness that afflicts ’em/ And the clearest understandin’ of what we gotta do to get free/ And the frustration that fills her words seems to come from the fact that most people don’t see/ Just ’cause you woke and I’m not, that shit ain’t no reason to talk like you better than me.”
Cole eventually hopped on Twitter and didn’t clarify who he was talking about, but he did say, “I stand behind every word of the song that dropped last night.”
He then went on to tell people to follow Noname saying, “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 nigga like me just be rapping.”
Many people criticized J. Cole for releasing the song in the first place, saying a Black woman’s “tone” should be the least of his concerns in this moment. Folks especially brought up the death of activist Oluwatoyin Salau, who was found dead not too long after tweeting that she was sexually assaulted.
“J. Cole has upset Black women at the wrong time. You’re asking us to calm down and be patient when a Black woman just lost her life at the hands of a Black man and a group of Black men just threw a Black woman in a dumpster? Read the room,” wrote one Twitter user.
Even Cole’s fellow rap artist, Chance the Rapper, had to call him out.
“Yet another L for men masking patriarchy and gaslighting as contructive [sic] criticism,” Chance first tweeted.
Then, when people challenged Chance for purportedly calling out J. Cole, he responded:
“They both my peoples but only one of them put out a whole song talking about how the other needs to reconsider their tone and attitude in order to save the world. It’s not constructive and undermines all the work Noname has done. It’s not BWs job to spoon feed us. We grown.”
Chance ended by tweeting:
“Everybody’s argument on either side is, we can’t personally attack each other if we really want to see a revolution. I can agree with that and can apply it in my own life. I wish we could learn that w/o two artists I admire having a public dispute.”