my single is dropping

Listen to Noname Ether J. Cole, Announce a ‘New Vanguard’ on ‘Song 33’

Photo: Getty Images for Governors Ball

J. Cole stans, you might want to sit down before reading this because Noname just ate up, chewed up, and spit out your boy. Two days after J. Cole came for Noname for being [checks notes] an intelligent and outspoken Black woman with his song “Snow on Tha Bluff,” Noname responded by releasing her first music of 2020, “Song 33,” on June 18. Produced by Madlib, the 70-second “Song 33” not only fully ethers Cole, but also reckons with the Black Lives Matter movement and the sociopolitical moment America is currently facing.

“I saw a demon on my shoulder/ It’s looking like the patriarchy,” raps Noname, effortlessly skewering J. Cole and his criticisms without even mentioning his name (which, for the record, is Jermaine). Noname goes on to reference the recently deceased Oluwatoyin “Toyin” Salau, the 19-year-old BLM activist who was murdered earlier this week. “Why Toyin body don’t embody all the life she wanted?/ A baby just 19/ I know Dream all black/ I seen her everything immortalized in tweets/ All caps.” Noname brings it back to J. Cole and men like him, calling them out for staying “quiet as a church mouse” in the face of violence against Black women, only speaking up “when duty calls to get the verse out.” Noname also calls Jermaine out for writing a diss track about her when there are bigger issues at hand, referencing the murder of George Floyd at the hands of police brutality. “He really bout to write about me when the world is in smokes?/ When it’s people in trees?/ When George begging for his mother saying he couldn’t breathe, you thought to write about me?”

Noname ends the song by calling out both J. Cole’s refusal to read a book and the extremely high murder rates of trans women in America. “Little did I know all my reading would be a bother/ It’s trans women being murdered and this is all he can offer?” Through all this, she somehow maintains hope for a better future, shouting out abolishing the police, democratizing Amazon, and ushering in a brighter tomorrow. She ends the song by simply stating, “This the new vanguard/ I’m the new vanguard.” Wow, Noname packed more profundity and critical thinking in a one minute song than can be found on one entire J. Cole album. Not only did Noname release the song, but she also tweeted out the lyrics to “Song 33.” Perhaps J. Cole got over his distaste for reading because rather than popping into his basement studio and trying to come up with a response track, he tweeted out Noname’s song. We would say “All Hail Noname,” but given her political views she probably wouldn’t like that, so instead we’ll say great work, comrade.

Update, June 21: Noname is now expressing regret that she released the diss track against J. Cole. In a message posted to Twitter on June 21, she said that silence would’ve perhaps been the better response. However, she won’t be removing “Song 33” from streaming platforms. “I’ve been thinking a lot about it and I am not proud of myself for responding with ‘Song 33.’ I tried to use it as a moment to draw attention back to the issues I care about but I didn’t have to respond. My ego got the best of me. I apologize for any further distraction this caused,” Noname wrote on social media. “Madlib killed that beat and I see there’s a lot of people that resonate with the words so I’m leaving it up but I’ll be donating my portion of the songs earnings to various mutual aid funds. Black radical unity.”