Hip-hop artist J. Cole, saying "I'm tired of being desensitized to the murder of black men," has written, recorded and released a song in response to the civil unrest in Ferguson, Mo., after last weekend's shooting of an unarmed black teen by a police officer.
In "Be Free," a quietly loping track featuring pulsing electric piano, the North Carolina hip-hop artist sings, "There ain't no drink out there that can numb my soul…. All we want to do is take the chains off/All we want to do is be free."
The track also incorporates snippets of witness accounts of the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Saturday, an event that's sparked community protests and a heavy police response that has been widely criticized, as far up as President Obama. Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon consequently dispatched the State Highway Patrol to take over security in Ferguson.
"There was a time in my life when I [cared]," Cole said in a statement. "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. … 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 [care] if it's by police or peers. This … is not normal."
Cole's publicist included a note he sent her stating, "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. Peace."
"Be Free" can be heard here.