In 2014, North Carolina rapper J. Cole was exalted by fans when he appeared in Ferguson, Missouri to support protests against the extrajudicial police killing of 17-year-old Mike Brown, then capped the year with the emotive 2014 Forest Hills Drive, providing listeners a vehicle to process their complicated emotions. Just weeks ago, he again joined protestors, this time in his native North Carolina, to protest the deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and re-released his 2014 protest song “Be Free,” leaving some fans elated and others hoping he had more to say on the subject.
It turns out he did, recording and releasing his thoughts today as the newly released “Snow On Tha Bluff.” However, rather than releasing a straightforward protest song the way some of his peers and contemporaries like Denzel Curry, Lil Baby, and YG have, Cole takes a more personal tack on the new single, talking through his reticence to enter the chat with regard to highly complex issues like police abolition. Where some peers, such as Vic Mensa, have been open in discussing the subject, Cole admits to having complicated feelings due to his unfamiliarity with the concept, which he attributes to his upbringing. As the song closes, he wonders if he feels “faker than [2011 drama film] Snow On Tha Bluff” because he isn’t doing enough.
A growing contingent of online observers believe the song to be a response to Noname’s tweets calling out “top-selling rappers” for their silence on the ongoing protests against police brutality. At the end of May, as the protests were just heating up, the outspoken Chicagoan 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. N****s whole discographies be about black plight and they no where to be found.”
Considering J. Cole describes reading the tweets of “a young lady out there, she way smarter than me” and feeling attacked because of her criticism, those rumors may have a foundation in truth — although Noname certainly isn’t the only intelligent young woman on Twitter taking Black celebrities to task for their handling of the situation. If “Snow On Tha Bluff” is his response to Noname’s call to arms, perhaps there are lessons to take away as the movement marches forward.
Listen to J. Cole’s “Snow On Tha Bluff” above.