The rapper initially used a photo of Michael Brown's body for the song's artwork, but he changed it to respect Brown's mother.
J. Cole has responded to the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager who was fatally shot by a police officer in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri, by releasing a tribute song titled "Be Free". The rapper begs for peace and justice over a somber piano-laced instrumental in the emotional ballad.
There is no rapping in the track. "All we wanna do is take the chains off / All we wanna do is be free," Cole sings before asking, "Can you tell me why every time I step outside I see my n***as die?" The song also features an audio of Dorian Johnson, Brown's friend who witnessed the shooting, recalling the incident.
"Rest in Peace to Michael Brown and to every young black man murdered in America, whether by the hands of white or black," Cole said in a message posted on his SoundCloud page. "I pray that one day the world will be filled with peace and rid of injustice. Only then will we all Be Free."
"I'm tired of being desensitized to the murder of black men," he added in a statement posted on his blog Dreamvillain. "I don't give a f**k if it's by police or peers. This s**t is not normal."
Cole initially used a photo of Brown's body lying uncovered in the street after his death. The rapper then changed the artwork after Brown's mother asked him to. "Art has been changed out of respect for her wishes," he explained.