Stop Bitching About Noname

This is a touchy one. Is Noname annoying on Twitter? Probably. Does she hate white people? Not entirely. Should it matter? No.

Let’s start with the obvious incident from back in 2019, where she derided her fanbase in a series of tweets. To sum it up, she was upset with the demographics of her concert attendees: white kids whose knowledge of hip-hop can be entirely traced back to Anthony Fantano and say the N word along with her, rather than people of color with whom she hopes her messages of social justice and empowerment would resonate.

In fact, the majority of her argument was criticizing her black fans for not showing out and supporting her. Many people online will convince themselves that she was being “reverse racist” and ungrateful to her many white fans, when in fact the opposite is true.

The worst thing said about white people through the entire exchange was essentially that she shouldn’t have to put on a minstrel show, which is entirely valid. In other tweets, as well as on the song “afro futurism” from the new album Sundial, she does acknowledge her white fans who come in good spirit. So stop playing the victim when this is not about you; if this upsets you, Noname and her music are not for you and you are proving her right. You are a guest in the culture of hip-hop, so let the intended audience have a platform.

Rapper Noname is Tired of having a WHITE audience | Lipstick Alley

The validity of her points on minorities not attending her shows is a bit messier. It’s a common belief that people of color don’t show out at concerts as much because they might have less disposable income, but lost in all of this is the fact that she is simply frustrated and doesn’t feel heard by her target audience. It might be true that she has more hipster appeal than someone like Dababy, whom she points to as an artist with more diverse concerts; but with that being said, how can you reasonably legislate someone’s feelings and frustrations on this? You also can’t help but to wonder if the outrage is amplified since a black woman is involved.

The whole beef with J. Cole was wack, there’s no way around that.

On the subject of disses though, there’s “namesake“. She namedrops Jay-Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, and Kendrick for their apparent bowing to capitalism and the white-powers-that-be by working with the NFL. Just like with the J. Cole situation, it might be easy to cop out and say “these artists have done a ton for the black community, how is it their obligation to represent every last issue?”.

However, these aren’t necessarily even disses so much as symbols of how capitalist power structures hold down society while propping up a few token sell outs (just look at all the Killer Mike discourse last month). Is she dissing Hov, or is she dissing the United States and its fucked up traditions? Maybe both, but these artists have reached a status where they are bound to be referenced and it’s not like she’s looking for “Takeover pt. 2”. It’s eye opening when you accept that Noname’s music is arguably focused on class more than any other issue.

Now for Jay Electronica. You can’t really blame anyone for being upset about this one. He’s definitely antisemitic and his verse on “balloons” has some bars that can’t be reasonably interpreted any other way (although some are being blown out of proportion, and to be fair, he disses Christians as well! Fellow Chicagoan and Jewish rapper Defcee breaks it down some in this thread, but as always, one perspective does not absolve everything). Sadly, it’s also too large of an undertaking to get into the nuanced history of antisemitism in the black community and where it comes from, which people are often so conveniently dedicated to ignoring.

The issue now, though, is how much you can blame Noname for providing a platform for this, and how much you let it affect your enjoyment of the album. On one hand, to let a couple bars from a featured artist become the entire center of discourse for a great project is frustrating; but on the other hand, it is pretty jarring.

That’s one of Sundial‘s biggest themes though: Noname admitting to her own complexities and contradictions, while attempting to reconcile them with ever-growing responsibility and an imperfect world. For example, she references walking back her own stances by performing at Coachella and having to get paid despite being so steadfastly socialist. Isn’t it reasonable for a woman who is so invested in issues of race, sex, classism and intersectionality to have a single kink in her righteous armor, or to feature opposing perspectives in art that is as challenging as hers?

None of this is at all to justify antisemitism, of course, but only to promote a more nuanced discussion and heap praise onto Sundial as a whole. Just stop acting like you’re a victim of reverse racism, please. She means well.

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