J. Cole – “Be Free”

J Cole’s “Be Free” came out in 2014. His song was definitely not the first song to discuss police brutality and innocent black people being gunned down by police. However, their have been many songs released after this song that still try and spread this message. I have found 3 songs that not only mention police brutality towards blacks, but also portray African-Americans political views and their feelings towards America. This post will discuss the lineage between J. Cole’s “Be Free” → Vince Staples “Hands Up” → Joey Bada$$ “Land of the Free”.


Vince Staples – “Hands Up”

This song was released in 2014, right around the same time the murder of Michael Brown took place. Staples said in an article with BET.com that this song was not in direct correlation with the Michael Brown murder. The song isn’t specifically about him. However, this song’s meaning still regards the corrupt racism in America, as well as racial prejudice and police brutality . This song contains lyrics that emphasize this matter.

“Deangelo Lopez and Tyler Woods”“Just a couple they gunned down around the hood”“I guess the pigs split wigs for the greater good”


“Just your color is enough to get you under arrest”“Strong hand to the law got me feelin’ oppressed”

These lyrics come in the middle of the song. The first few lyrics contain names of African-Americans who were killed by police. The melody and tone of this song is very eerie. It makes me as a listener feel bad in a way, like something bad is about to happen. This sort of tone was used to make us feel angry about what he was singing about, to get us on his side. The other lyrics above also sounded like that. One key lyric that jumped out was the use of the word “pigs”. This is Staples referring to the police. The pig term is another way of calling the police corrupt.

This song definitely portrays not only police brutality, but just an overall outlook of how African-Americans really feel about this country. It’s lineage with “Be Free” comes with the mention of other African-Americans that were shot by police, but this song also emphasize more points and political views.


Joey Bada$$ – “Land of the Free”

This song was apart of Joey Bada$$’ “ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$” album. This was released in 2017, just 1 year into President Trump’s tenure as president. The album name itself can show us how Joey feels about America, but this song shows that even more. This song contains countless lyrics that discuss political issues and African-Americans views on the country. It also contains lyrics about police brutality and unlawful murders of black people. This song is puts African-Americans political views in to a very upfront matter.

“Three K’s, Two A’s in AmeriKKKa”

“Obama just wasn’t enough, I just need some more closure”“And Donald Trump is not equipped to take this country over”“Let’s face facts ’cause we know what’s the real motives”

“In the land of the free, it’s for the free loaders”“Leave us dead in the street then be your organ donors”


These lyrics are the backbone of what this song is about. The first lyric is as direct as it gets. the three K’s he says are in American, stands for the KKK, which is a hate group strictly for blacks. This lyric emphasizes the discrimination in which blacks face. This lyric is also shown in his music video for this song. In the video, it depicts African-Americans being dragged in chains, by people wearing all white coats, which is the attire the KKK wears. Not only is this extremely upfront, it emphasizes the feelings African-Americans have toward America. The middle lyrics also emphasize the feelings they have towards American, stating their strong love for Obama, but also their extreme hatred for Trump, who was President when this song released.

The last two lyrics have direct lineage toward J. Cole’s “Be Free”. In Cole’s song, it discusses the on wrongful murder of Michael Brown, and for Bada$$’ song, it is more broad, but still discusses how the police in American are corrupt and prejudice towards African-Americans.

This song may not have obvious lineage towards Cole’s song, but it definitely has the same idea in the message it is trying to bring. Bada$$ is a well-known for his extremely political music, and this song falls nothing short of that. He is definitely one of the most outspoken artists in regards to racism against African-Americans. Below is an interview Bada$$ had with Genius, which dives deeper into the meaning of the lyrics.


These songs may have not had upfront lineage directly with “Be free”, but each song conveyed a message with the same motive. I concluded that in these songs, they were trying to be more broad in their approach, which meant emphasizing many political issues in their songs. Each song did have their view on police brutality which directly lines up with “Be free”, but the message of each of these songs went even bigger than that. It went directly towards America and their government, not just towards the police.