Noname's 'Song 33' Is a Timely and Radical Reminder

Noname's 'Song 33' Is a Timely and Radical Reminder

On Wednesday evening, rapper J. Cole dropped a track called “Snow On Tha Bluff”, which can be best characterized as a large bucket of Black misogynist tears. The song is ostensibly about police brutality and racism in the current moment, but Cole spends nearly half the track rapping about an unnamed woman who he accuses of being vocal about the movement for Black liberation but not spending enough time educating her fellow Black folks.

It didn’t take long for folks on Twitter dot com to infer that J. Cole was talking about Noname, the Black woman rapper who, for the past year, has been very public about her journey through learning about Black radicalism and anti-capitalism. Of all the people to critique for not doing enough to educate others, Cole decided to come for Noname—a rapper who is so openly committed to learning in community that she literally started a book club to uplift the works of authors and theorists of color.

Some particularly damning lines from “Snow On Tha Bluff” include:

“She mad at the celebrities, lowkey I be thinkin’ she talkin’ ‘bout me
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 botherin’ me.”

Not only is J. Cole is literally tone-policing a Black woman, but he’s also revealing the actual reason he made this whole track about Noname—his ego is hurt.

Just ‘cause you woke and I’m not, that shit ain’t no reason to talk like you better than me.”

This song was likely inspired in part by a tweet Noname wrote at the end of May calling out the famous Black rappers whose “whole discographies be about black plight” but who had remained silent about the protests against police brutality and anti-Blackness that were happening across the nation. Cole has spent much of his career branding himself as a “conscious rapper” and it seems as though Noname’s 280-character drag really hit a nerve.

After releasing the song, J. Cole was dragged through the twitter streets for the overt misogynoir in his lyrics (leading to some truly A+ meme content), even before posting a thread of tweets on Thursday morning where he doubled-down on what he rapped in “Snow On Tha Bluff”… while also oddly talking about how he “loves and honors” Noname as a leader. I know this might come as a surprise to J. Cole, but there is more to respecting Black women than calling us “queens” while demanding we do labor for you. But of course, Cole is far from the only man with access to books and other resources who has demanded that a Black woman spend her time spoon-feeding him knowledge. The entitled belief that certain marginalized groups (think Black women and Black lgbtq+ people) are obligated to do the constant and thankless labor of educating our more privileged counterparts reaches far beyond Twitter. And is this really the week to tell Black women we’re not doing enough?

On Thursday evening, Noname responded to J. Cole’s diss track by dropping “Song 33”, a one minute and ten second track produced by Madlib where she eviscerates Cole simply by, well, actually rapping thoughtfully about police brutality, movement building, and violence against Black women.

Under the tweet where she shared the link to the song, Noname threaded a link to a petition to support former Black Panther Jalil Muntaqim’s release from prison. There’s so much that could be said about Cole’s track, but Noname said it best herself.

“It’s trans women being murdered and this is all he can offer? And this is what y’all receive?”

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