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‘Snow on tha Bluff’: A self-reflection by J. Cole

Written by Music

North Carolina rapper J. Cole has shown himself throughout his career to be a socially aware individual. For example, Cole’s 2016 album 4 Your Eyez Only dissected themes of racism and inequality on several tracks. However, the Fayetteville native has come under fire recently for his latest track ‘Snow on tha Bluff’, which addressed the black lives matter movement and appeared diss female rapper Noname.

Noname has been incredibly vocal in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, particularly on twitter. In May she stated “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”.

“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”.

Noname in a deleted tweet from May

J. Cole appears to have addressed this point in “Snow on tha Bluff”, saying that “there’s a young lady out there, she way smarter than me” and “she mad at the celebrities, low key I be thinkin’ she talkin’ ’bout me”. While Cole does appear to praise Noname’s commitment to activism at first, he goes on to criticise the rapper’s stance on other artists silence. Cole says “it’s something about the queen tone that’s bothering me” and “just ’cause you woke and I’m not, that shit ain’t no reason to talk like you better than me”. It’s these lines that have caused the most outrage, with some on social media accusing Cole of criticising black women at a time where we should be uplifting them.

“Snow on tha Bluff” doesn’t come for Noname directly but rather criticises her method of activism

However, people are arguably focusing too much on Cole’s use of the phrase “queen tone” rather than listening to what his real problem with Noname’s stance is. “Snow on tha Bluff” doesn’t come for Noname directly but rather criticises her method of activism, which she considers on the more radical side of the spectrum. For example, she shares a great deal of black radical literature on her twitter-based book club. Cole criticises this style of activism, saying that Noname is attacking rather than leading. Cole opts for a more nurturing approach, arguing that change doesn’t happen over night and that a potentially confrontational approach is counterproductive.

“Snow on tha Bluff” is more of a reflective self-commentary, a diss on Jermaine himself, than a diss on Noname.

Yet, it can also be argued that “Snow on tha Bluff” is more of a reflective self-commentary, a diss on Jermaine himself, than a diss on Noname. Cole definitely criticises Noname’s approach but also contemplate’s his own silence in recent times. Its clear near the outro of the song that Cole is questioning his own response to current events: “but damn, why I feel faker than Snow on tha Bluff. Well, maybe ’cause deep down I know I ain’t doing enough”. Cole did join the protests in his hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina. However, it might be that he still feels he isn’t doing enough, such as on social media.

Cole and Noname are on the same side, both fighting for black rights but doing it in different ways.

What’s clear here though is that Cole and Noname are on the same side, both fighting for black rights but doing it in different ways. There is no “correct” way to fight for black rights and both Cole and Noname are clearly advocates for the BLM movement. “Snow on tha Bluff” then not a diss and but an invitation for further discourse. While there are certainly instances where Cole criticises Noname, a beef arguably is being manufactured where there is none. Perhaps we are too quick to read a couple of lines and then have our 280 characters on the matter. Regardless it would be nice to see Cole and Noname on the same side at some point, as their methods may differ but their goal is the same. Together they could be a powerful motivator for the BLM movement.

While there are certainly instances where Cole criticises Noname, a beef arguably is being manufactured where there is none.

J. Cole’s ‘Snow on tha Bluff’ is a divisive song but there might be more to it than that, it’s shown that activism comes in many forms and that it’s ok at times to feel a little overwhelmed. Just because you disagree with someone’s methods doesn’t mean that you disagree with their message. The track serves as a reminder that simple acts of kindness may still be powerful enough to change the world.

Last modified: 19th June 2020

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