The song, which appears on Noname's new album Sundial, has been the subject of backlash due to the lyrical content of Jay's verse, which makes reference to several anti-Semitic tropes. Noname has addressed the response to the verse, which she defended last month before it was even released.
"Here's the truth. No, I'm not anti-Semitic," she wrote. "I don't hate groups of people. I am against white supremacy which is a global system that privileges people who identify as white. I've been clear about this for years. I'm not going to apologize for a verse I didn't write. I'm not going to apologize for including it on my album. If you feel I'm wrong for including that's fair. Don't listen. Unfollow and support all the other amazing rappers putting out dope music. Your disappointment truly means absolutely nothing to me and I say that with love."
In his verse, Jay raps about his affiliation with the Nation of Islam and references its leader Louis Farrakhan, who has been labeled an anti-Semite and misogynist by critics.
"Some fuckboy 85er come run up and press me/ It’s all a hoax, quite simple, a joke like Zelenskyy," he raps in reference to Jewish Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is also a former comedian and the subject of countless conspiracy theories. “If anybody asks, tell ’em Farrakhan sent me/ It’s the war of armageddon and I’m beggin’ the listener/ If you ain’t fighting that mean you either dead or a prisoner.”
The verse also refers to the Rothschild family, who are the subject of many anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. "Saw the Roth' family in half to get my clout back," he raps on the song. "In the heart of Knightsbridge, pullin' bunnies out top hats." As reported by Vanity Fair in 2014, Jay dated Rothschild heiress Kate Rothschild while she was still married. On his 2020 track "Ghost of Soulja," he also referenced the family in a line that was criticized. "And I bet you a Rothschild I get a bang for my dollar / The synagogue of Satan want me to hang by my collar," he raps on the song.
"Balloons" was originally intended to be the lead single for Sundial, but Noname walked back on the decision after Electronica's involvement sparked concern among her fans. "Been seeing a lot of critiques about my choice to include jay on my song. If you disagree with his political and religious beliefs that's fine," she tweeted last month. "But to compare him to hitler? a man responsible for the extermination of millions is wild as fuck to me. it's truly not that deep"
Electronica has faced accusations of anti-Semitism as far back as 2012, when he released a track on which he referred to himself as "Jaydolf Spitler, rap Hitler." He also notably stood by Kanye West following his wildly anti-Semitic remarks last year.
In contrast, Noname has often been labeled a progressive artist due to the content of her music and projects such as her book club, which seeks to uplift the works of authors of color, build community, and provide reading material for those in prisons. In fact, she takes Jay-Z and the NFL to task on another Sundial song, "Namesake."
"I ain't fuckin' with the NFL or Jay-Z," she raps on the track, which also references other Black artists who've performed the NFL Super Bowl Halftime Show "Propaganda for the military complex... Go Rihanna, go/ Watch the fighter jet fly high/ War machine gets glamorized/ We play the game to pass the time," she raps about the annual event, substituting Bey and Kendrick's names as she repeats the bridge." However, she's also self-reflective on the track and admits she said she wouldn't perform at Coachella and "somehow I still fell in line."