J. Cole is back with his first song of the year as a leading artist.
The Fayetteville-native released “Snow on Tha Bluff,” last night (June 16) which featured production by Wu10. Cole is most known for being a thought provoking, and deeply profound artist. This record is his first solo effort since 2018’s KOD album, which served as a PSA for young listeners who found themselves struggling with drug addiction, gang violence, and societal pressures to assimilate to a certain lifestyle.
“Snow on Tha Bluff” is absolutely a lyrical dynamite (emphasis on the dynamite). However, though he addresses social injustice, hardships and life in urban communities, all the while flowing over a dreamy production, it has proven to be controversial. At the 48-second mark, Cole took a turn that has lead this record to be under scrutiny. “It’s something about the queen tone that’s botherin’ me,” he raps. From there, Cole depicts a tale about an unnamed woman upset at a variety of worthy targets — “crackers, capitalists, police,” but most importantly, in Cole’s case, “celebrities.”
Throughout the span of the song, the North Carolina rapper makes a series of excuses. Although he attended college, he suggests, he’s not as deep or intellectual as everyone assumes he is. Being rich proves to be hard, because he feels guilty that he’s not doing enough with his wealth. Then at the tracks climax he raps: “If I could make one more suggestion respectfully/I would say it’s more effective to treat people like children.”
The response from listeners across the board has spread like a wildfire, and many have come to the final conclusion that “Snow On Tha Bluff” was a shot at rapper, activist, and book club organizer Noname. The Chicago artist has been vocal about her peers’ lack of response as protests across the country call for justice after the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. “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,” Noname tweeted in late May before later deleting.
Cole took to Twitter to explain his intentions with the song. “I stand behind every word of the song that dropped last night,” he wrote. “Right or wrong I can’t say, but I can say it was honest. Some assume to know who the song is about. That’s fine with me, it’s not my job to tell anybody what to think or feel about the work. I accept all conversation and criticisms.”
He then went on to directly reference Noname and reiterate that he is not educated enough to be seen as a leader. “Follow Noname,” he continued. “I love and honor her as a leader in these times. 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. Meanwhile a n–a like me just be rapping. I haven’t done a lot of reading and I don’t feel well equipped as a leader in these times. But I do a lot of thinking. And I appreciate her and others like her because they challenge my beliefs and I feel that in these times that’s important. We may not agree with each other but we gotta be gentle with each other.”
While we cannot assume who this song was addressed to, or if it was even written for that purpose, it is undeniably a bop. Like all music, Coles metaphors and allusions are completely open to interpretation.
Listen to, “Snow On Tha Bluff,” below.