The historical context of this song dates back to as early as black history in America, beginning with slavery, the abolition of slavery, to the Civil Rights movement, and present protests today, mainly the Black Lives Matter movement.


Released in 2016, “Neighbors” is significant to the Black Lives Matter protest. These protests began as a response of the ongoing police brutality events, where police would unjustly arrest, assault, or in some extreme cases, even kill innocent black individuals for no reason other than their skin color. The song highlights other prejudice that blacks face on a daily basis including stereotypes and racial profiling, which is evident in the verse that says “Every [person] feels like a candidate for a Trayvon kinda fate” referring to Trayvon Martin, one of the most recognizable victims of police brutality.


A verse that jumps out at me as I listened to this song the second time listening to it is “My sixteen should’ve came with a coffin”. I have listened to this song numerous times, but this verse jumped out at me when listening a little bit closer. Looking at the lyrics, I discovered that it refers to a common fear, or unfortunate belief that many black members in society have. Many fear that they won’t live past the age of 30, so J. Cole says his sixteenth birthday should have come with a coffin, since many black boys were/are being targeting in the uproaring police brutality strikes. J. Cole raps about many ways that blacks face prejudice and racism on a daily basis in this anecdotal piece, but another powerful line that J. Cole states is at a turning point in the song where “cops bust in with the army guns, no evidence of the harm we’ve done”. Where, point blank, paints a terribly vivid image of police brutality incidents firsthand.


The references in this song to the unjust realities that the black community faces are plentiful, it is difficult to not let each line resonate within you when listening to it. It brings the harsh realities to life for those who may not fully understand what society does to the black community.