The two tracks dropped by J Cole and Noname depict a larger conversation about being woke, educating each other, and cancel culture. It is a conversation that black people need to have between themselves as well.
Like every J. Cole fan, June 16 was filled with J. Cole's truth, whether I liked it or not. His new song, Snow on tha Bluff, was on repeat the whole day. He rapped about scrolling through social media, finding a young lady way smarter than him, who like all of us in these times, is hella mad. "She mad at these crackers; she mad at these capitalists, mad at these murder police." J. Cole claims he ain't no dummy to think he's above criticism, but something about the queen tone is bothering him.
(At this point, my ears perked up.) This queen is Chicago Rapper Noname, an educated black rapper who is also known for her social media activism on Twitter and her book club highlighting two books each month written by authors of color. According to J Cole's song 'Snow on tha Bluff', she comes from a good family who taught her a perspective and awareness of the system and unfairness that afflicts us all, and he understands that the frustration in her words comes from the fact that people just don't see.
"Just 'cause you woke and I'm not, that shit ain't no reason to talk like you better than me" raps J. Cole. "How you gon' lead when you attacking the very niggas that really do need the shit that you saying?" His words speak on so many "woke" people who do harm to the cause because there is no place for not knowing, for being uneducated, for being misinformed, frankly, for being human. The biggest injustice that the system has done to us is keeping us uneducated and misinformed about the real truth of our history and current circumstances. You would think our brothers and sisters who knew would educate us instead of attacking us, but their "education" often feels like an attack on our own circumstances.
J. Cole proposes a different way. "It's more effective to treat people like children, understanding the time and love and patience that's needed to grow." At this point, I'm thinking, J. Cole did it again. Here is everything that I have been thinking for years about cancel culture, and my disdain for "woke" people put together in such a way that I FEEL every word. I must say though that this was not what I was expecting from J. Cole in the current times that we are living in, and neither was Noname.
"He really 'bout to write about me when the world is in smokes," Noname raps in her new track 'Song 33'. "When it's people in trees? When George was beggin' for his mother, saying he couldn't breathe, you thought to write about me...it's trans women being murdered and this is all he can offer?" she asks. I know I wasn't expecting this from J. Cole either. So much is going on in this world right now and an educated black woman who is out here trying to do more for the cause is what he chooses to rap about?
As an educated black woman myself, I cannot help but feel the censure when he says that something about this queen tone is bothering him. I have also been told I been too mad, I been too angry, I been too loud and passionate about certain things, but at the same time, I have felt my anger and frustration alienating some of the people I wanted to reach and creating an unnecessary divide. However, it was the pure rage that stemmed from George Floyd's death that has created these times of change. So my anger, our anger, definitely has an undeniable place in the movement. It is just better spent on the people who are against us, not with us.
For Noname, this is the perfect time to hear this message because if she truly understood what he meant, it would help her reach people like Cole who feel like they are not doing enough, who want to do more, but are not sure how to start. At the end of the day, it is about reaching more people, not being right or wrong.
Although, I cannot help but think that it is undoubtedly Noname who is in the right here. J. Cole is a rich black man with all the time in the world, but still, he himself admits that he doesn't educate himself enough. Of course, Noname is angry. How could she not be? I understand our excuse of life getting in the way, but what is his? If she found the time, why couldn't he?
I hope both of them listen to each other's songs and really hear the truth in each other's criticisms. At the end of the day, these two rappers are conversating with their music, and I AM HERE FOR IT!
Shout out to Noname and her book club: https://www.nonamebooks.com/
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