The reason J. Cole was the musical guest on "Late Show With David Letterman" last night was because his new album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, is out this week. But Cole didn't perform a song from the album on the show.
Instead, the 29-year-old rapper worked his way through a live rendition of "Be Free," the fierce and emotional song he released in August shortly after the death of Michael Brown. The lyrics and message have only become more pointed in the months since, as protests following grand jury decisions in the deaths of Brown and Eric Garner continue, as do discussions about police brutality and race relations.
In addition to singing the lyrics from the original song, which he released in August -- with blunt and relevant lines like, "Can you tell me why/ Every time I step outside I see my people die?" -- the North Carolina native added a new rapped verse for the occasion.
And it was just as moving and powerful as the rest of the song.
"No disrespect, in terms of change, I haven't seen any," he raps at one point. "Maybe he had good intentions but was stifled but the system and was sad to learn he actually couldn't bring any/ That's what I get for thinkin'/ This world is fair, they let a brother steer the ship and never told him that the sh-- was sinkin'."
When Cole finished, Letterman walked over, visibly floored. "Oh my god," he said.
Cole's 2014 Forest Hills Drive is in stores now.