The Truth About Noname And J. Cole's Relationship

Recent Black Lives Matter protests have motivated many musicians to release songs about the movement for racial justice. Singer Alicia Keys released the single "Perfect Way to Die," explaining in an Instagram post that the song and its title are "so powerful and heartbreaking because WE are heartbroken by so many who have died unjustly.⁣⁣" Singer Anderson .Paak's "Lockdown" addresses protesting against police brutality in Los Angeles during the coronavirus pandemic.

Many hip-hop fans expected rapper J. Cole to drop a single on this topic too, as he's created multiple albums with social and political themes in his career. Cole also participated in a George Floyd protest in his hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina, on May 30, 2020. Fayetteville is not far from the small North Carolina town where Floyd, who was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was born (via NBC News).

Cole did eventually release a single, "Snow on tha Bluff" on June 16, 2020 — but the lyrics left fans divided. Fans speculated that the verses seemed to be targeting rapper Noname, and two days later, she all but confirmed the rumors by responding with her own track.

See what both rappers have to say about each other and how their colleagues are reacting to the tense situation.

J. Cole stands by 'every word' of his song

In May 2020, Noname posted a tweet that was critical of famous rappers not speaking out against police brutality. According to Complex, she tweeted, "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." 

So when J. Cole released "Snow on tha Bluff," many fans interpreted it to be a response to Noname's tweet.

Cole's song begins with the following lyrics: "N****s be thinkin' I'm deep / intelligent, fooled by college degree / My IQ is average, there's a young lady out there she way smarter than me / I scrolled through her timeline in these wild times and I started to read." He continues, "She mad at the celebrities, low key I be thinking she talking 'bout me."

Fellow musicians were quick to criticize Cole for the song, according to Los Angeles Times and Complex. Chance the Rapper tweeted, "Yet another L for men masking patriarchy and gaslighting as con[s]tructive criticism." Singer Ari Lennox, who is on Cole's Dreamville label, posted on Instagram in support of Noname: "Thank you QUEEN for giving af about us constantly and endlessly. I feel and appreciate everything you put out to the world."

Meanwhile, Cole took to Twitter to defend his song, writing that he stands by "every word of the song that dropped last night."

Noname regrets how she handled the situation

Two days after "Snow on tha Bluff" was released, Noname released her own one-minute song, "Song 33." In the lyrics, Noname questions why someone would write a song about her when there's so much else going on, according to Entertainment Weekly. She raps: "Look at him go / He really 'bout to write about me when the world is in smokes?" And: "This is all he can offer?"

Noname's lyrics also draw attention back to her priorities. She references the recent deaths of 19-year-old Black Lives Matter activist Oluwatoyin Salau, who was killed in Tallahassee, Florida (via CNN), and two Black trans women, Riah Milton and Dominique "Rem'mie" Fells (via Time).

Both J. Cole and Noname have addressed the controversy on Twitter. Cole encouraged his fans to follow Noname, as 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." Cole showed support for Noname's "Song 33" by posting the track on his Twitter feed.

Noname, by contrast, apologized for her song and "any further distraction" that it caused, saying that she's "not proud of herself" and "my ego got the best of me." She added that she plans to donate her proceeds from the song to black mutual aid funds.

This war of words may be over for now, but we'll have to wait and see whether the rappers are truly on good terms.