Yesterday rapper, J.Cole, tweeted the words "how we feel" with a link to a new song on his SoundCloud. The song is called "Be Free;" I encourage everyone to check the song out below, or externally here.
Personally I have always been a fan of J.Cole, ever since I first heard his tapes from 2009 and 2010, "The Warm Up" and "Friday Night Lights." He had a nice clean delivery and consistent production that made me consider him to be one of the better "mainstream" artists lyrically. The song he dropped yesterday makes me think no different.
"Be Free" is an emotionally raw tribute to Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teen who was unfortunately shot and killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri this past weekend.
Cole's voice cracks as he screams,
"Can you tell me why
Every time I step outside I see my n****s die
I'm letting you know
That there ain't no gun they make that can kill my soul
This song has gained both positive response and negative backlash. Some listeners felt the same raw emotion and cry for help that I felt when listening, but others seemed more focused on his weary voice, instead of the message he is sending.
I have found this song to be different for an artist like J.Cole sonically, but not thematically. Cole has always been telling stories and I would say he is a step closer to conscious rap than the average run-of-the-mill mainstream spitter, but to my knowledge he has not produced a song with him singing the entirety of the track. It should also be noted that aside from Cole's singing is also featured dialogue from Michael Brown's friend, Dorian Johnson, who witnessed the whole thing. Johnson is able to show vulnerability while also remaining extremely vocal in his speaking.
With the song Cole released the following statement:
"Rest in Peace to Michael Brown and to every young black man murdered in America, whether by the hands of white or black. I pray that one day the world will be filled with peace and rid of injustice. Only then will we all Be Free."
This is not a song that is made for airtime on the radio. This is a song made to provoke thought and ask questions about humanity. To me, the imperfections in his voice are what gives me goosebumps with each listen. I sense the distraught that Cole is screaming.
This repeated senseless violence is something everyone, of every race, should be thinking about and questioning. How many more lives will be taken before we realize this cannot continue?
This needs to stop happening!