J. Cole's imperfections inspired "Crooked Smile" and while his latest Born Sinner single is cheery and uplifting, the song's video takes a very serious turn.
The Roc Nation MC puts his acting skills on display as he plays a drug dealer, who watches his fictional little sister murdered by police. He dedicates the short-film clip to Aiyana Stanley-Jones, a 7-year old Detroit girl who was shot and killed when police raided her home in 2010.
"I wanted to come and strike a nerve with this video. It just so happened at the same time 'Fruitvale Station' came out — the story about Oscar Grant. I watched that movie and I cried the entire movie," Cole told MTV News at the iHeart Radio Music Festival, of the critically acclaimed drama released in July.
Filled with fiery emotion, Cole wanted to tell a story that would shed light on police brutality and the injustices that young people of color face on a continuing basis. "I never forgot about this little girl Aiyana Stanley-Jones, I never forgot about her story when it happened a few years ago," he said. "I definitely wanted to dedicate this video to her and get more people to know about her story."
Cole isn't concerned that the grim video doesn't exactly match the tone of the song — for him it was the right message to send. Two days before the Fayetteville, North Carolina, spitter dropped the video, a 24-year-old NC man, Jonathan Ferrell, was shot and killed by police after he survived a car crash and stumbled toward them seeking assistance. "That story, it unfortunately happens every day," Cole said. "He graduated from college, he played football at college, he got in a terrible car accident, escaped from the car, went to somebody's house to knock on the door for help. They thought he was robbing the place. The cop comes up, they end up shooting him to death.
"The video is relevant still, even though her story is a few years old. It's like this video is still relevant because the problem hasn't been fixed," he said.