Early Friday morning, J. Cole released "Be Free," an aching, emotional song dedicated to Michael Brown. But he was so moved by the killing of the 18-year-old, that he then headed to Ferguson, Missouri, to be a part of the ongoing protests firsthand.
He talked briefly with Complex (though he stressed at the beginning, "I ain't come down here to do no interviews"), and spoke passionately a bit about what he was feeling and seeing.
"We came down here to feel it, 'cause this is history, and we wanna be a part of this just like everybody else," he said, adding that he felt like, "it coulda been you, it coulda been me, it coulda been our best friends."
At first, when he heard the news about the incident, he admits that he wasn't particularly taken aback. "It's so regular, we just like, 'Damn, that's f--ked up. Again?'" But then he read up on what happened, and his feelings shifted. "It forced me to stop running from it."
"At one point in time, me and [my friend] were sitting in the crib talking about this all the time. 'This is f--ked up!' And we was young. And we was 20. And we was passionate," he continued. "It's like, life goes on, and n---as start worrying about Instagram and reality TV, and 'What's popping,' and 'I got kids,' and life happens. And a lot of distractions. Unfortunately, last week, it was the same old, 'This is f--ked up,' and this week, it's like, 'What can we do?'"
Cole is trying to do his part, between "Be Free" and spending time with the people of Ferguson. He said that he had only seen peaceful protests in his time on the ground, and hoped that would continue.
"Violence cannot bring peace. It's impossible. By the laws of the universe, it's impossible."