“Be Free” – Audio Transcript


NBC News audio clip plays


“On the streets of Ferguson Missouri, outraged in anger, protesters of different ages and races demanding answers in the shooting death of 18 year old Michael Brown at the hands of police”


Be Free starts playing

“And I’m in denial

And it dont take no x-ray to see right through my smile

I know

I be on the go and there ain’t no drink out there that could numb my soul

Oh no

All we wanna do is break the chains off

All we wanna do is Be Free”


Narrator: Police brutality is a huge issue in America’s society. It has been around for decades upon decades. However, the biggest issue is not solely police brutality, it is the racism that is involved with police brutality. Like many other people, J. Cole too is frustrated with society and how African-Americans are treated. Cole heard about the killing of Michael Brown, who was introduced in the NBC News clip. Cole was outraged because of how nothing has changed since the civil rights movement. In an outrage of anger, Cole wrote, sang and produced the song titled “Be Free”, which is not only a song dedicated to Michael Brown, but dedicated to all the other African-Americans who were brutally murdered at the hands of police officers. 


Be Free Performance on David Letterman plays:


“And I’m in denial

And it dont take no x-ray to see right through my smile

I know

I be on the go and there ain’t no drink out there that could numb my soul

Oh no

All we wanna do is break the chains off”


Narrator: J. Cole’s performance of his song on the David Letterman show speaks volume. His vocal straining is way louder than the original recording, which shows the anger behind the song. The anger does not come for no reason, according to Jamein Cunningham and Rob Gillezeua’s article, the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s biggest concern was the mistreatment of African Americans by police officers. Cole’s anger behind this song showcases the fact that this type of treatment dates back to years ago, but still in the present day african-americans still receive the same treatment from police. Not only does Cole’s lyrics enhance the death of Michael Brown, but his vocal performance makes it even better, as we can tell there is passion behind his voice, he means what he is singing about. 


(J. Cole speaking to Complex Interviews)


“What was your perception when you heard of the news of Michael Brown a week ago

My perception was, unfortunately, the same perception I had when a man got choked out in Staten Island, like damn again, this is fucked up”


Narrator: What you just heard was a J.Cole interview with a complex in Ferguson, Missouri, where Michael Brown was killed. Like Cole said his reaction to the murder was like damn another murder, because murder to African Americans from police is just so common that is their reaction. Why Cole made the song is because of that. It is such a normalized thing that Cole wanted to spread awareness about it, so maybe something could change to avoid murders like this that are so consistent and normalized. Even in the song, the lyrics “all we want to do is take the chains off” resonates with this issue, Cole is pretty much saying like when are african americans going to be free. 


(Be Free song plays/also plays under the narration)


“All we wanna do is take the chains off

All we wanna do is break the chains off

All we wanna do is be free

All we wanna do is be free

All we wanna do is take the chains off

All we wanna do is break the chains off”


Narrator: Regarding this issue, there are tons of ways to protest and get the point across. Whether it is protests, rallies or even music, all of them do the same thing. Cole wrote the song because he knew music was a good way to express his anger


Interview Clip plays from the Angie Martinez Show



“Isn’t it amazing what you could do with music?”

“It’s amazing, it’s the most powerful thing”


Narrator: Like Cole said, music is a powerful thing. So much so that in his performance of this song on the David Letterman show, he completely freestyle a new verse in his song, which brought up even more social issues, even mentioning Obama. 


“Be Free” David Letterman performance plays 


“Forget this chain cuz this aint me

Though im eternally grateful for Jay-Z

Was so elated we celebrated like Obama waited until his last day in office to tell us brothas were getting their reperations , hey!

A man can dream can’t he

No disrespect in terms of change I haven’t seen any”

Narrator: Cole was vocal in his performance on the David Letterman show, about how the government still does nothing to address the issue of racism in police, specifically police brutality. Cole does his best to protest this with music. According to Henry Wu’s peer-reviewed article, black lives matter started the ##Sayhername campaign to also address this issue in murder of african-americans by police. 


Narrator: To touch upon Cole’s mentioning of Obama in his freestyle verse, he had a right to say that. According to John McCallister’s peer reviewed article titled “the Obama effect”, black people were killed 32% of the time while being arrested by police officers, despite making up only 13% of the population of the United States. Not only did Cole have his original making of this song, he added this freestyle verse to challenge the ideology that Obama “saved african americans’ ‘ despite the statistics regarding murders and police brutality. 


“Be Free” – slowly fading in as the narrator stops narrating. 


“And I’m in denial

And it dont take no x-ray to see right through my smile

I know

I be on the go and there ain’t no drink out there that could numb my soul

Oh no 

All we wanna do is take the chains off”

Narrator: J. Cole is a well-known Hip-Hop rap artist, but not only does this song show flashes of that genre, but it also can be considered soul music. As you just heard, in pretty much every lyric J.Cole sounds passionate, but specifically the lyrics “And I’m in denial”, makes this song’s genre of soul more meaningful, because of the meaning behind this song, as I have discussed throughout the entirety of this podcast. Cole puts his heart and soul into these lyrics, to protest and fight for the wrongful murder of Michael Brown and other African-Americans. 


Clip from J.Cole interview with complex in Ferguson 


“I ain’t come down here to do no interviews

This is a little uncomfortable for me no disrespect to you

Only reason Im doing this is because my boy Damian works for complex and I love him to death

We ain’t come down here to talk to no press

We came down here to feel it cuz this is history

And we wanna be apart of this like everyone else wants to be apart of it”

J.Cole, like you just heard in his complex interview at the scene of Brown’s death, did not go there to talk to the press, he went there to “feel it” he says, and to acknowledge what happened and be part of its history. He touches on that later and what he says is extremely heart-warming and very thoughtful. 


Clip from J.Cole interview with complex


“What can we do, you know what I mean?

Its kids out here, men being out here, you talking to people

When you come out here you feel the humbleness

You talk when it’s time to talk

I’m out here just listening

I talk when it feels like it’s time to talk

I been out here all day like this”

Narrator: J.Cole going out to Ferguson like he said just to “feel it” speaks a lot about him as a person, as well in relation to the song. Cole went there to just be surrounded by people that were angered just like him. He says they shouldn’t run from the issue anymore, but just acknowledge and do their best to change it. Him doing that, brings a lot more authenticity to the song. He wrote for a reason, from anger, for passion, he really wrote it for a protest, and this interview really enhances the real meaning of “Be Free”. 


NBC News clip plays (be free plays quietly as a background)


“Within the police car there was a struggle over the officer’s weapon. There was at least 1 shot fired. 

The struggle spilled out onto the street, where Brown, whom investigators say was not armed, was fatally shot. “

Narrator: The clip you just heard was the description of the moments leading up to Brown’s death. Brown was unarmed when he was killed, which makes his death even more upsetting. Overall, I think J. Cole’s song was a great way to protest the issue of police brutality and honoring Michael Brown. Cole has made significant strides regarding this issue, as he has been able to use his platform to help people. This song has so much more to it than just the lyrics and the music, and Cole has done a tremendous job in protesting and activism. Now for the final remarks, R.I.P Michael Brown.


Be Free plays and fades out