TAKE #16: Noname, Cole, and the Fan & “Celebrity” Dynamic

So as you probably already know, there have been some developments in the Noname and J. Cole situation. Since the last TAKE, Noname responded with “Song 33” and then ended up apologizing for releasing the song. She mentioned that she let her ego get the best of her and shouldn’t have made her feelings about the situation such a spectacle. And during the moments between J. Cole’s song and Noname’s apology, I saw a bunch of different things and was a part of a bunch of different conversations about the whole thing. And I thought a lot about the harmfulness of celebrity.

It’s something that I had thought about before, but this situation put it in my mind more to saliently. I think the last time I thought about it was closer to when the Coronavirus started to pick up and people were asking celebrities, essentially, to fix the virus. And this thought process goes back even further to that Funk Flex interview with Tyler the Creator that I mention very often, where Tyler was talking about how fans can often get in the way when it comes to an artist releasing new music. Fans both don’t know what they want and want to feel the same way they felt the first time they started listening to someone. And so trying to cater to the fans on an album can be detrimental. And from then – on and off – I was thinking about being a fan and my relationship with fan-ness, which became even more of a thought bubble with this Noname and J. Cole thing. And I think as much as I WISH Cole hadn’t released the song in the first place, I think the bulk of the reason why stuff got so out of hand was because the fans (and people on the auxiliary) got in it.

On Nonames’s song, I think it was obvious from the lyrics that the purpose of releasing it song was “this nigga said some fuck shit, I feel a way about it HOWEVER, this is where we are at right now. Y’all are still not talking about Black women dying. We had this Black woman who had been fighting for Black Liberation be sexually abused and killed at the hands of Black men and no one’s taking accountability. Breonna Taylor was missing from the conversation during recent protests and BLACK WOMEN had to make sure her name was heard. People are actually talking about defunding the police for real for real, but y’all wanna talk about a fake beef. J Cole talked about his thoughts on where we’re at right now, and this is what I think is going on.”

And I think that’s what we all should have gotten from the conversation. But like I said fans really got in the way and sometimes when people are fans of other people, it’s easy for them to feel like (and for me to feel like, cause I’m one too) they have to defend the people they’re fans of. And there were people on both sides that turned the situation into a whole thing. When it didn’t need to be. Because even though I didn’t agree with J. Cole song, and I wish that he didn’t release it, he really was just speaking his mind and just talking about how he felt. And we were the ones who tried to pull more things out of that . And of course words have meanings and implications outside of the initial meaning, but Cole really was just another person who had an opinion on something. And we hold celebrities up to this higher standard and make everything they do or say a talking point, so it escalated. There have been plenty of Black men – and plenty of people in general – who have had things to say about Noname, but because they’re just regular Joe Shmoe’s, nothing they said blew up like that.

So a lot of the time it’s the celebrity and fan relationship that gets in the way of the conversations that could happen. Every time something happens with a celebrity we feel like we have to engage with it and. And I’m guilty of that too. Do I get excited when I get to see some of my favorite people perform on stage? Heck yeah LOL. But at the end of the day they’re just people who make music. And I hope that one day we as a society can dig into that idea more and decide collectively that we’re going to stop making celebrity happen. And that we can dig into the idea that we don’t have to put our lives on the line for somebody who don’t even know us. Because stuff stagnates so bad when we make people such a big deal. A celebrity says something and then fans interpret it one way, non-fans interpret it another way, and then those fan groups argue on whatever the person they like the most said about whatever. And now a celebrity has to come in and either respond or criticize what their fans were doing. Or agree and then it becomes a whole thing again.

I’m looking at my Tyler poster in my periphery and I’m thinking about how last year or a couple of years ago for whatever reason Tyler fans thought Frank Ocean was going to perform at Camp Flog Gnaw even though Tyler never confirmed it or said anything like that. And then when Drake ended up coming out as the performer, he got booed off stage and ended his set early. And then it was Tyler who had to go back – like his fans were kids (which in reality some of them are) – and reprimand his fans for doing stupid stuff. So that’s one of those situations that kind of shows what I’m talking about. It’s great that people are passionate about things, and we deserve to be passionate and find love and enjoyment and things. I enjoy being passionate about things lol. There are people that I listen to that I respect a lot and have made a substantial impact in my life, but at the end of the day I don’t know them niggas lol. They don’t know me and I don’t know them. It is what it is. I have no responsibility to defend anybody famous. Like of course if somebody says something reckless about one of my favorite people imma feel a way about it, and I may or may not go through a whole conversation in my head on why that person shouldn’t have said x, y, and z. But at the end of the day my favorite people are not not my responsibility. And they’re also grown ups. That doesn’t necessarily mean that people shouldn’t hold celebrities accountable when they say stupid stuff or are offensive or harmful to a group of people or another person. Because they do have a platform and with that platform (should) comes responsibility. But they don’t know me LOL. And I don’t know them. I feel like that’s that on that.

It would be great if people could just do something that they enjoy doing for the sake of doing it and people just admire them without feeling like being a fan has to come with that admiration. And people don’t have to worry about feeling like liking someone’s content has to become a part of their identity. As I sit here with a my 3 Golf Le Fleur tattoos LOL. So this is very much hypocritical. But attaching fanhood to your personal identity is problematic. But it’s also not? Because I do think that people are social beings, and it’s nice to have a connection with someone that makes things that make you happy. People get inspiration from other people all the time. And that is a part of that socialization, and it’s a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with that. And if someone’s art or someone’s music helps you in your life then I don’t think that there’s anything inherently wrong with that. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the impact that people have had on your life. However, that should be that. You should also have your own identity as a person, and your life shouldn’t revolve around them. You have to be able to detach yourself from being a fan of someone’s.

And I guess that this is where stan culture kind of comes in. And again I’m saying this as someone who has Tyler the Creator-inspired tattoos LOL. If a person you’re a fan says or does some BS you should be able to stop being a fan of theirs (if it goes against what you believe in) and you can still have your life without worrying about having an identity crisis because your favorite person is on some BS. You should be able to wipe your hands of it and move on. And I think that’s where the problematic part comes in because people attach so much of themselves to people that they don’t know and then they feel like they can’t imagine themselves existing without having that person in their lives. Which again I understand as someone who has people that I’ve been listening to for 10 + years. There are people who have been listening to that I literally cannot imagine not having listened to. But at the same time I recognize that if they do something that goes against my core morals and values, then I have to be able and willing to let them niggas go, for my own sake. People come and go in my real life, and these celebrities can come and go as well LOL. Tattoos can be laser removed if necessary LOL. There has to be a difference between being a fan and having your entire identity attached a stranger and your idea of what and who that person is. Because at the end of the day, celebrities offer us what version of themselves they want to offer us. Those version of themselves have been carefully curated by not only them but also teams of people including stylists, PR agents, accountants, makeup artists, trainers, and, chefs. And enjoying them and the things that they create shouldn’t be a personality trait. It should just be something that you do on the side. You shouldn’t be a Tyler fan at your core. You shouldn’t be a Chance the Rapper fan at your core. You shouldn’t be a Lil Pump fan at your core. You should be you at your core.

And I think, more than that, celebrityness dehumanizes people. And that happens a lot with Black women. Black people in general, but Black women in particular. And I think that that’s something that we saw – I saw – first hand in seeing how people worked so hard to find things wrong to say about Noname. They wanted so bad for her to be the person that caused this whole situation happen. And then continued to villainize her after she already expressed her apologies for having responded to J. Cole’s song in the first place. They continued to villainize her after she showed a moment of humanness and vulnerability. People got mad at her for being human lol. So like I said, I hope at some point in the future we take a long and hard look at what celebrityness means. And I don’t know if that is something that is going to happen anytime soon with the rise of social media influencers and YouTubers and all of that stuff. I do think that as soon as we decide that we’re all just people who have different jobs, we will be much better off. And maybe we can start showing each other a little bit more grace.

P.S. here are my thoughts on “Song 33” (reposted from reddit lol):

No one asked, but I thought the song was better than “Snow on tha Bluff,” and the beat was fire.

here’s something else you might like:

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