J. Cole’s Socially Conscious Moments Over the Years
J. Cole is easily one of the most socially conscious rappers in hip-hop. Roc Nation's golden child has been at the forefront of activism for the past few years and he isn't afraid to stand up or support what he believes in regarding injustice and problems in society. While he may not be as active on social media when it comes to hot topics like many of his rap counterparts, Cole makes his actions count in other ways.
Like Cole, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick takes a stand on the issues that matters most. Recently, the football player has been making national headlines for his refusal to stand during the National Anthem before NFL games to protest police brutality and racism in America.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said of his decision. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
One of Kaepernick's biggest celebrity supporters is Cole. Earlier this month at a concert, the North Carolina rapper was seen wearing a Kaepernick jersey while he performed “A Tale of 2 Citiez” in front of hundreds of fans.
This is just one of many instances of the Cole World creator doing his due diligence to combat the atrocities that have affected African Americans' lives on a daily basis. XXL has gathered a collection of the many socially conscious and politically active moments throughout J. Cole's career. Check out his moves below.
Wears Colin Kaepernick's Movement by Wearing His Jersey
J. Cole performed at a recent concert and showed up wearing a Colin Kaepernick jersey. The move was in support of the San Francisco 49ers quarterback's refusal to stand for the National Anthem before NFL games. You can see him wear Kap's jersey while performing "A Tale of 2 Citiez" below.
Sends Donald Trump Protestor Free Merch
When video surfaced of Thomas DiMassimo's Dreamville T-shirt being torn to shreds after being tackled for protesting at Donald Trump’s Ohio rally this spring, DiMassimo expressed his sadness on Twitter.
“And they ripped [the shirt] and I’m so salty bout it. I got it at Cole first Dollar and Dream tour when he performed in ATL.”
J. Cole’s manager, Ibrahim Hamad, reached out to DiMassimo and told him he could expect a box of new Dreamville merch soon. “All good bro,” Hamad wrote. “We’ll send you a box of Dreamville gear on us. Be safe out there.”
Performs at DNC Fundraising Event
During President Obama’s eight-year run as Commander-in-Chief, he's continuously shared his love of rap music by welcoming more than few rappers to the White House and naming Jay Z and Kendrick Lamar as mainstays on his playlist. When the DNC held a fundraiser in Austin, Texas on March 11, he called on J. Cole to be the musical guest. It didn't stop there, Obama shouted out the North Carolina rapper and said that he loves Cole's music.
Attends Million Man March
J. Cole participated in the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March, which was organized by The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan two decades ago. The Justice or Else event took place last October at the National Mall. Also attending was Common, Jay Electronica, Snoop Dogg, Ty Dolla $ign and more.
Marches With Protestors in New York
Following the decision of a Staten Island grand jury declining to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the killing of Eric Garner, New York City erupted in 2014. The announcement that an indictment was not forthcoming sparked protests in New York and around the country. J. Cole joined protests in Eric Garner's honor in New York.
Starts a Slave Rebellion in "G.O.M.D." Video
J. Cole released the “G.O.M.D.” video to much praise in 2015. The rapper plays a house slave who stages a slave uprising, rallying the plantation’s servants to revolt against their owners. The visual subliminally touches on America's dark history and complexion stigmas. The video is directed by Lawrence Lamont, the guy behind Big Sean’s “IDFWU” video.
Saint Heron spoke with J. Cole about the meaning of the video.
“Well, I struggled, because first of all, I wanted to do like a Hype Williams-style video for this song so bad, because I’ve never done one of those. I felt like if I did do one of those, this would be the song to do it with. So, I battled with that urge to go the typical route with this video, because I feel like that’s what everyone expected. And every video I’ve ever done has never really been expected, so I was just like fuck it, let’s do it. The video is really more of a commentary on the need for unity and togetherness more so than it is a comment on racism, because [the black community] knows—we all know about oppression. We’re all aware of that. What we’re not aware of is the dysfunction within our own community. You know what I mean? The fact that there are levels to us economically and because of the different skin colors within our own race. We’re not aware of that. We’re aware of the other shit. Yeah, we’re against the outside, but we’re not looking around and being like, damn, we’re actually against each other too. It’s like the minute that we come together and start to cut out all of the classism that exists among black people and the skin color differences among black people. It’s really for that reason. Then there’s this whole “real nigga” conversation. The field niggas are the real niggas. Today, the schoolboy—the boy who went to college and did something with himself—he’s the soft, house nigga.”
Speaks With Tavis Smiley About the Importance of Reading
When J. Cole walked onto the set before doing an interview on Tavis Smiley, he was seen clutching a copy of Death of a King: The Real Story of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Final Year. Smiley spotted the read, which happens to be the book he wrote on the last year of the Reverend’s life. They discussed the importance of being a voracious reader, something the rapper hopes he can use as a descriptor by the time he turns 40 in 10 years.
Visits Ferguson and Shows Support for Michael Brown
J. Cole showed up to Ferguson, Mo. to support the community in the wake of Michael Brown's death. The rapper spoke about why he was hesitant to do interviews during the situation and the significance of what was going on in Ferguson and cited an article titled, “America Is Not for Black People.”
“We was passionate,” J. Cole says. “But life goes on and niggas start worrying about Instagram and reality TV … and life happens. Unfortunately, last week, it was the same ole, ‘Damn, that’s fucked up.’ This week, it’s like, ‘What can we do?'”
Performs “Be Free” on Late Show With David Letterman
Fresh off the release of his latest album, 2014 Forest Hills Drive, J. Cole hit the Late Show With David Letterman stage in 2014 to perform “Be Free,” a tribute dedicated to Michael Brown.
Cole performed the heartfelt song and added a new verse. “Forget this chain, cuz this aint me/Though i’m eternally grateful to Jay Z/We’re so elated we celebrated like Obama waited until his last day in office to tell the nation brothers is gettin’ they reparations,” he rhymes.
Pays Tribute to Michael Brown During Made in America Performance
Prior to his performance at the Philly edition of the Made in America Festival in 2014, J. Cole’s DJ played “Be Free,” his song dedicated to Brown, while a montage featuring 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 be on the horrifying relationship between police and people of color in America.