When news broke that unarmed teenaged Michael Brown was murdered by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, J. Cole was one of the first people on the scene to show his support of Brown, the Brown family, and the people of Ferguson. Prior to his performance at the Philly edition of the Made In America Festival, Cole's DJ played "Be Free," his song dedicated to Brown, while a montage of police brutality showed on the big screens.

Cole then emerged to run through songs from his successful string of mixtapes and albums, but the opening song and montage made it clear that the focus should first and foremost be on the horrifying police-citizen relationship in America.