Rapper J. Cole has just dropped his new album "2014 Forest Hills Drive," this week, but he used a high-profile slot on late-night TV on Wednesday not to perform one of the album's songs, but to sing "Be Free," the track he put out in August in response to the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
Wearing a dark T-shirt with the "F.$.S.♥" and singing with his eyes closed on CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman," Cole repeated the song's main hook like a mantra: "All we want to do is take these chains off/All we want to do is break these chains off/All we want to do is be free."
He also interpolated a rap that wasn't on his recording, commenting on President Obama's legacy, lamenting what he considers a lack of the change Obama promised during his first campaign, saying, "That's what I get for thinkin' this world is fair/They let a brother steer the ship/And never told him that the ship was sinkin'."
A spokesman for Cole said he's not otherwise commenting about "Be Free," because "he wanted the song to speak for itself."
In August, had said he was spurred to speak out, feeling that he'd become preoccupied with adult concerns as he's gotten older, and less inclined to comment publicly on affairs of the day. But the situation in Ferguson jolted him.
"That could have been me, easily," he said. "It could have been my best friend. I'm tired of being desensitized to the murder of black men. I don't [care] if it's by police or peers. This … is not normal."