Rapper J. Cole’s new song “Snow on Tha Bluff,” which dropped Tuesday night (June 16) has sparked a major discussion online. In "Snow on Tha Bluff," North Carolina rapper J. Cole seems to respond to criticism he's received about not being active enough in the Black Lives Matter movement. Who is J. Cole talking about? And what does “Snow on Tha Bluff” mean?
Getting into “Snow on Tha Bluff’s” meaning.
The lyrics of “Snow on The Bluff” depicts the anger a particular woman is feeling. She’s angry with the recent murder of George Floyd, our collective ignorance, and she’s also angry about the responses (or lack thereof) from celebrities — including J. Cole. At least, that's what he alludes to in the song. However, J. Cole's ultimate message seems to be about *how* this woman conveys her messaging. He seems to believe that instead of "attacking" people and acting "holier than thou," she should be instead focusing her anger on educating them.
The lyrics start with, “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 / She mad at these crackers, she mad at these capitalists, mad at these murder police / She mad at my n****s, she mad at our ignorance, she wear her heart on her sleeve / She mad at the celebrities, lowkey I be thinkin' she talkin' 'bout me”
J.Cole continues, looking deeply into what he’s being criticized for. “How you gon' lead, when you attackin' the very same n****s that really do need the sh*t that you sayin'? / Instead of conveying you holier, come help get us up to speed / Sh*t, it's a reason it took like two hundred years for our ancestors just to get freed / These shackles be lockin' the mental way more than the physical / I look at freedom like trees, can't grow a forest like overnight / Hit the ghetto and slowly start plantin' your seeds / F**k is the point of you preaching your message to those that already believe what you believe?”
In the third part of the song, J. Cole addresses his actions and ends with, “Well, maybe ‘cause deep down I know I ain’t doing enough.” Does this mean he thinks the woman criticized him is rightfully doing so?
The lyrics read, “I done betrayed the very same people that look at me like I'm some kind of a hero / Because of the zeros that's next to the commas / But look here, I promise I'm not who you think / Ran into this n**** outside of the store yesterday / He said something that had me like, "Wait" / He was like "Cole, 'preciate what you been doin', my n****, that's real" / But damn, why I feel faker than Snow on Tha Bluff? / Well, maybe 'cause deep down I know I ain't doing enough”
“Snow on Tha Bluff’s” song title is in reference to the 2012 film of the same name. The movie is about Curt Snow, a real-life Atlanta-based robber and crack dealer who spends his time in the Atlanta neighborhood, The Bluff, which is known for its crime.
Who is “Snow on Tha Bluff” about?
This is where things start getting complicated. People theorize that the woman J. Cole is talking about is Chicago rapper, poet and activist Noname. Although the tweet seems to be deleted now, on May 29, Noname originally 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.” And after J. Cole’s song was released, Noname simply tweeted (and then later deleted), “Queen tone.”
J. Cole didn’t confirm or deny the song was about Noname, but he did urge his fans to follow her and praised her work, tweeting, “Follow @noname. 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.”
He also posted a photo of himself and Noname on Instagram with the caption, "Snow on the Bluff. #jcole #noname"
People are calling out J. Cole for potentially putting Noname at risk for speaking out, and also tone-policing her messaging. Plus, some people are put off by him essentially saying that this woman is super smart, why doesn’t she educate him instead of drag him (or people like him) for his ignorance? Really, it’s not anyone’s job to educate him but his own.
Regardless, J. Cole stands by his song. 12 hours ago, the North Carolina rapper tweeted, “Morning. I stand behind every word of the song that dropped last night.” He added, “Right or wrong I can’t say, but I can say it was honest,” and then, “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 asked his fans to follow Noname.
Many fans are in support of J. Cole and “Snow on Tha Bluff,” stating that the song is powerful and necessary.
Listen to it here:
While "Snow on Tha Bluff's" execution wasn't perfect, it's important that we're having these conversations about systemic racism, police brutality, and unlearning so many problematic ideologies.
If you are looking for ways to donate your time or money to Black Lives Matter and other antiracist organizations, we have created a list of resources to get you started.