Recently, the rapper J. Cole released a documentary on HBO, appropriately titled 4 Your Eyez Only, in conjunction with his album. When I saw the super trailer rolling around, I knew that it would be great, but I wasn’t ready for the wake-up call I was going to receive. It’s a truly powerful thing when artists use their platform not only for personal promotion, but for social justice as well.
As a black millennial, it is sometimes a challenge to marry my creative freedom with the ideals and truths I hold most dear. In one way, I feel I need to censor myself from the negativity, but on the other hand, there are so many things to discuss. J. Cole’s documentary served as a blueprint for all conscious artists (visual and performance,) and there were so many reasons why.
Photo: Andrew Supreme From Dreamville
Now, J. Cole is not your typical 21st-century artist. If you listen closely to his lyrics, you will discover that he is a very private person. He never shows his family, brags about his riches and is never in the tabloids about rap beefs or scandalous sex claims. In this documentary, J. Cole gave us the best of both worlds by shedding a bit of light on his love for his baby girl through song, his community and the racial injustices that have affected him both directly and indirectly. He even shared a clip from a home invasion in his house that went viral.
Apparently, his neighbors told the police that they thought J. Cole sold narcotics, so they sent a SWAT team and vandalized his home. The clip was very reminiscent of the raids on the Black Panthers back in the 70s. Seeing it with my own two eyes gave me chills. As a creative, this inspired me to dig deep and tell the stories that need to be told about racial injustices in my community, and to be bold enough to provide examples that have happened to me. In order for there to be real social change, the artist must serve as a mouthpiece for the resistance, and the people that feel they have no voice.
What was most riveting about this documentary was the commentary from the people who they shed light on. He talked with one of Michael Brown's friends in Ferguson, Missouri. The teenager talked in detail about how Mike wanted to create change through the music he made. There was also a scene where the community had a passionate discussion on the state of black America, and what it would take to truly turn around our fortune. A young man, who so happened to have two felonies, exclaimed over the crowd of protestors, “I want my voice heard too!” He went on to talk about how smart he was in high school, and how the prison industry construct is truly the culprit of so many problems we see in our community today.
This documentary showed all kinds of pain and plights of the black community. I was inspired and now believe that we, as black creatives that come from the south and know about these injustices, must show it through our art in order to massively inform our audience. Then, we may see the change we need to see.
I encourage everyone to go and watch J. Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only documentary on HBO, and leave comment below on ways we, as creatives, can use our art as a catalyst for change.