With his latest album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, set to make a solid debut on the charts, J. Cole has taken to the promo trail this week to spread the word about the effort. Last night, he made a stop at The Late Show with David Letterman. But instead of performing any of the 13 tracks from the album, the rapper threw a curve ball of sorts by performing his loosie “Be Free.”
His choice to perform the song, a tribute to Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the other Black victims of police violence that he released over the summer, was already a bold statement, but he made it even bolder in his performance. Dressed in all black, he kept his eyes closed as he sang out the song’s lyrics in a raspy, pained voice over the somber piano. In fact, he only opened his eyes to deliver a fiery verse not included in the original recording, which denounced some of his material excess and even pondered on President Obama‘s position in these matters.
All in all, it was a poignant, politically charged performance from Cole, but we wouldn’t expect any less.