Rapper J. Cole is best known for writing songs about lightweight subjects like girls and how tough it is to be a popular and successful rapper, but he’s also proven himself capable of handling heavier topics. On Friday, he became the first major artist to release a song in response to the Michael Brown shooting. “Be Free,” which he posted to SoundCloud early this morning, is a solemn meditation on violence directed at young black men, driven by a looping electric piano figure and a compellingly raw vocal performance that weaves between melodic rapping and straight-up singing.
“Tired of seeing black boys killed,” he wrote in an email to his publicist that she included in her own email about the song. “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[.]”