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Why It’s More Than A Rap Beef For Noname

Updated: Jan 28, 2021

Of all the times for J. Cole to open his mouth.

Photo by Chantal Anderson

J. Cole’s release of “Snow on Tha Bluff” couldn’t be more poorly timed. Dreamville’s very own decided on Tuesday to make his first solo release of 2020 a passive-aggressive jab at Noname. This came after a stream of Noname’s tweets apparently put him in his feelings.

In the middle of Noname trying to keep people accountable for not leaving black women behind in the fight for justice, he comes for her. He comes at her for being angry. He comes for her and her tone. He comes at her because he think’s she’s not saying it the way he wants to hear it.

Let’s unpack this. A black, dark-skinned woman has every right to hold black men accountable when it comes to having the same amount of energy for fighting for justice for black women and trans people. Noname has actually put in the effort to educate herself and the people around her with Noname’s Book Club started in 2019. On top of that, black women aren't required to soften themselves, or suppress their anger when it comes to discussing the value of their lives.

The part that makes it worse is he admits in his lyrics he’s *not* fully educated on the sexism & misogynoir that exists between prioritizing Black Male Lives vs. All Black Lives, but feels the need to humble her in the process?

What is it with this thing of people feeling the need to humble black women? Why do men feel that accountability is no different than an attack?

This jab comes no less than 48-hours after black woman activist Oluwatoyin Salau is found dead, after tweeting about being sexually assaulted by a man who offered her a ride. Salua was a known activist in Tallahassee and was only 19 years old.

Noname responds on Thursday with a response - "Song 33."

“I saw a demon on my shoulder, it’s looking like patriarchy.”

Noname packs her response into a mere minute and 10 seconds, wasting no time over her Madlib beat.

Within her first few bars, she immortalizes Oluwatoyin Salau with her words, and moves on to again, ask about black men’s silence and refusal to rally for those who are not them.

She asks him where all this energy is even coming from, amidst black people fighting for their humanity and the general uprising catalyzed by George Floyd’s murder. People are turning up dead in the middle of a civil rights movement. Amidst riots? Fires? Lynchings? The murder of trans people?

I know I struggled to find the energy to get out of bed and get in my 3 meals a day long before a pandemic or an uprising started, so for Cole to come with this kind of heat for nothing other than tone policing has layers.

A lot of people are hip to Cole’s very ho-tep ways. This isn’t the first time he’s opened his mouth when he should have just sat there and ate his food. We've collectively peeped it with a side-eye, and keep moving, but haven't forgotten. People are starting to talk about #CancelJCole or whatever, but this isn’t a cancellation - it’s a critique.

It’s a critique of the alive-and-well trope of the angry black woman, the woman who is too loud, too vocal, too educated. Tone policing black women gets us nowhere because all it does is derail from the real, tangible issues that people are actually risking their lives fighting for in the street. Sometimes, it’s just really good to sit down and shut up and be okay with just listening. You can’t practice accountability with your ego in the way.

Critiquing hip-hop’s misogynistic culture must continue at all costs, especially when it impedes on the way we all get free. No one is free until everyone is free.

Be sure to listen to Song 33 by Noname today.

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