Common, Jay Electronica and billy woods headline the impressive supporting cast, but it’s one of Noname’s solo offerings, “Namesake,” that commands listeners’ attention as she criticizes the aforementioned megastars for cozying up to the National Football League and performing at the Super Bowl.
“Read in between the line at the crime scene/ I ain’t fucking with the NFL or JAY-Z,” she raps on the funky, Slimwav-produced track. “Propaganda for the military complex, the same gun that shot lil’ Terry/ Out West, the same gun that shot Senair in the West Bank/ We all think the Super Bowl is the best thing.”
Adopting a cheer-squad voice, she continues: “Go, Rihanna, go! Watch the fighter jet fly high/ War machine gets glamorized, we play the game to pass the time/ Go, Beyoncé, go! Watch the fighter jet fly high/ War machine gets glamorized, we play the game to pass the time/ Go, Kendrick, go! Watch the fighter jet fly high/ War machine gets glamorized, we play the game to pass the time.”
Noname doesn’t just punch up at the big names, though; in the very next bar, she turns the microscope on herself and raps: “Go, Noname, go! Coachella stage got sanitized/ I said I wouldn’t perform for them and somehow I still fell in line… fuck!”
JAY-Z struck a partnership with the NFL in 2019 to become the league’s live music entertainment strategist while also contributing to its social and racial justice initiatives.
With Hov wielding his influence in the corridors of football power, R&B and Hip Hop has continued make its presence felt at the Super Bowl, with Kendrick Lamar joining Dr. Dre for his Emmy-winning set in 2022 alongside Eminem, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Mary J. Blige and Anderson .Paak.
Despite these wins, Noname is far from the first to question Hip Hop’s relationship with the NFL. The news of JAY-Z’s partnership came two years after the league had effectively blackballed Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem to call attention to racial injustice and police brutality.
Some felt Hov was effectively giving the league a pass by going into business with them, with allegations also put forth that it was a move motivated purely by personal financial gain, not wider social change.
Others, however, believed the billionaire rap mogul was looking to play the long game and change the system from the inside.
Even Rihanna herself turned down the opportunity to perform at the Super Bowl back in 2019, telling Vogue at the time: “I just couldn’t be a sellout. There’s things within that organization that I do not agree with at all, and I was not about to go and be of service to them in any way.”
Asked about her U-turn in an interview with British Vogue earlier this year, RiRi explained she had a change of heart after becoming a mother.
“There’s still a lot of mending to be done in my eyes,” she said of the NFL, “but it’s powerful to break those doors, and have representation at such a high, high level and a consistent level. Two Super Bowls back-to-back, you know, representing the urban community, globally. It is powerful. It sends a really strong message.”
She continued: “Raising a young Black man is one of the scariest responsibilities in life. You’re like, ‘What am I leaving my kids to? This is the planet they’re gonna be living on?’ All of those things really start to hit differently.”
Stream Noname’s Sundial in full below:
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