This week's events in Ferguson, Missouri are the latest to spur musical inspiration.
"I'm tired of being desensitized to the murder of black men," rapper J. Cole said on his website early Friday as he released a surprising new song "Be Free," a response to police crackdowns and protests following the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown last Saturday in the St. Louis suburb.
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"We become numb. I became numb. But not anymore. That coulda been me, easily. It could have been my best friend," Cole writes.
The rapper has never shied away from heavier subjects, as his music has addressed everything from abortions to domestic abuse to drug addiction. His music video "Crooked Smile" paid tribute to Aiyana Stanley-Jones, the 7-year-old girl from Detroit who was shot and killed during a police raid.
"Rest in Peace to Michael Brown and to every young black man murdered in America, whether by the hands of white or black. I pray that one day the world will be filled with peace and rid of injustice. Only then will we all Be Free," Cole posted on Soundcloud along with the track, which as of Friday afternoon has already received over 200,000 plays.
- Emmanuelle Saliba