By Shannon Carlin
President Obama addressed the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, MO, yesterday (Aug. 14), urging for calm amid violence. This morning, J. Cole released a track called “Be Free,” which pays tribute to Michael Brown, the unarmed teen who was shot over the weekend, and also seems to be a response to Obama’s speech.
Over a rather somber piano loop, Cole sounds like he’s on the verge of tears as he says, “All we want to do is take the chains off/All we want to do is be free,” asking, “Can you tell me why, every time I step outside my house I see my n—as die?” But makes it clear, “I’m letting you know, there ain’t no gun they make that can kill my soul.”
On Soundcloud, Cole wrote, “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.”
He also expressed the importance of getting the track out as soon as possible in an email to his publicist writing, “Tired of seeing black boys killed. Tired of seeing black men killed. No more being numb to it. Made this yesterday. Not gonna wait for the album to put it out. It’s now.”
On his website, Cole went even further, writing:
There was a time in my life when I gave a f–k. Every chance I got I was screaming about it. I was younger. It’s so easy to try to save the world when you’re in college. You got nothing but time and no responsibility. But soon life hits you. No more dorms, no more meal plan, no more refund check. N—a need a job. N—a got rent. Got car note. Cable bill. Girlfriend moves in and becomes wife. Baby on the way. Career advances. Instagram is poppin. Lebron leaves Miami. LIFE HITS. We become distracted. We become numb. I became numb. But not anymore. That coulda been me, easily. It could have been my best friend. I’m tired of being desensitized to the murder of black men. I don’t give a f–k if it’s by police or peers. This s–t is not normal.
The single’s cover features a photo of Brown laying face down in the street as a cop stands a few feet away looking over him, while the track features audio of Brown’s friend, Dorian Johnson, who was walking with him recalling the events of that day.
Since the shooting on August 9, protests and riots have broken out in Ferguson and the surrounding area. It’s been reported that militarized police force has been firing rubber bullets and spraying tear gas at residents peacefully protesting
Listen to the track below.