J. Cole Seeks Freedom

On Wednesday night, rapper J. Cole made an appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman, to promote his new album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive.

Instead of performing one of the songs from this album, he performed, “Be Free,” a song he had released in the summer as a tribute to Michael Brown. In this rendition on Letterman, he adds a new verse where he raps, “So elated, we celebrated/ like Obama waited /until his last day in office to tell the nation/brothaz is getting their reparations, hey/A man can dream, can’t he?”

The hoodie he is wearing reads: “F$S❤” which stands for “Fuck money, spread Love.”

When he first announced the arrival of the album with the video below, we saw that this was the point where he was. He’d become a successful mainstream rapper and found that relationships with his loved ones were more important than the perks of being in Hollywood.

So now with this new album, what we see is a deep sincerity. He’s always been known for his truth telling, but with the presentation of this album – including the David Letterman performance and the title that alludes to his once-foreclosed childhood home – he is more vulnerable than he’s ever been. We get to see him as an adolescent anxious about sex, as the new kid in Hollywood, and finally now as the artist who seeks freedom for himself – from the artifice of fame – and for the black community – from state-sanctioned police brutality among other things.

It is not technically perfect. It still has his trademark self-conscious misogyny, and the production sometimes feels rudimentary, but this all augments the feeling that he is sharing himself in raw form with us. We’re his friends, his fans, people he cares about.

In his intro to the album, he sings: “Do you wanna/ Do you wanna be/ Free?/ Free from pain/Free from scars/Free to sing/Free from bars/Free my dawgs/You’re free to go/Block gets hot/The streets is cold/Free to love/To each his own/Free from bills/Free from pills,” on one hand showing us all the ways in which we are shackled, and on the other, inviting us to seek freedom with him.

Some of the ways that he has sought freedom so far: going to Ferguson a week after Mike Brown was killed, marching quietly for Eric Garner in New York last week, and now with this album.

Post submitted by Kanyin

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