Fayetteville, NC

Much like he did following the death of Michael Brown in 2014 as well as Eric Garner that same year, J. Cole found himself once again on the front lines of protest Saturday (May 30).

This time, he was back in his hometown of Fayetteville, North Carolina alongside NBA star Dennis Smith Jr. marching towards the Fayetteville Police Department in the name of George Floyd. Floyd, who was born in Fayetteville, died on Monday (May 25) in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Cole spoke with individuals who had gathered at the protest but informed them he didn’t want to take pictures as it would “detract” from the protest’s overall message regarding police brutality and justice for Floyd.

Recently, fans have been re-sharing Cole’s touching “Be Free” performance from The Late Show with David Letterman in 2014 to signify how much hasn’t changed since then.

Cole sings on the song, “All we want to do is break the chains of pain, all we want to do is be free.”

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“When I made the song, it came from a crazy place,” Cole told Angie Martinez about the song and performance in 2014. “And I was like, I don’t know if I can go back to that place, but … when we got to rehearsal, I started reading articles, and I saw the video again to put myself back in the mainframe. It’s the most important thing I’ve ever done on stage.”

Revisit the song below.