J. Cole Reacts To Ferguson’s Slain Michael Brown With ‘Be Free’

J. Cole issues a powerful musical take on the tragedy in Ferguson, and the consequences of unchecked police aggression.

Johnny Firecloudby Johnny Firecloud

The tide of anger and renewed focus on the brutal militarization of American police continues to rise following the murder of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and artists are now employing their most potent weapon to raise awareness. In a new song, J. Cole painfully and poignantly channels the emotion the nation collectively feels in response to the tragedy and its indicative statement about racial injustice at the hands of the police.  

The new song, called “Be Free,” features the soft-spoken chorus “all we want to do is take the chains off” over a sparse electronic piano sample. Audio of Brown’s friend Dorian Johnson is included, recounting Brown’s murder for the media. Cole also used a photo of Brown’s body as it lay uncovered in the street for several hours after his death.

Cole explained his intentions behind the song and his feelings on the tragedy in a statement, saying:

There was a time in my life when I gave a fuck. 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. Nigga need a job. Nigga 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 fuck if it’s by police or peers. This shit is not normal.

I made a song. This is how we feel.

On SoundCloud, he added, “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.” Listen to “Be Free” below.

Cole’s track is an excellent first dose of what’s sure to be an avalanche of music related to the Brown murder. Given the escalating climate of wildly oppressive police tactics in recent years, supported by federally funded militarized weaponry in even the smallest of towns, and a new standard of horrific aggression by those with a badge, it wouldn’t be a surprise to hear the following song rise as an anthem for those who are tired of waiting for change. For those who have grown far too frustrated with a system entirely run by corporate interest and a media shoveling misinformation, fear, divisive intent, distractioneering and utter stupidity down our throats each day in lieu of legitimate information, this song may well prove to be a revitalized rallying cry: