J. Cole’s New Documentary Aims to Give a Voice Back to the People (Video)
In true J. Cole fashion, he released his most recent LP without much pomp. 4 Your Eyez Only arrived quietly in December of 2016, but the response was emphatic, debuting at number one and becoming his fourth consecutive number-one album. In the months since, he’s maintained a low profile, focusing on new fatherhood and gearing up for a massive tour that kicks off in June. However, it seems he has been hard at work on his second documentary film project for HBO, and the new trailer suggests the 4 Your Eyez Only film is about more than just the music.
J. Cole doesn’t speak a word in the minute-long trailer. Instead, other Black Americans in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Atlanta, Georgia; Ferguson, Missouri; Fayetteville, North Carolina (Cole’s hometown), and Jonesboro, Arkansas (his father’s hometown) are heard expressing their frustrations while sharing messages of optimism. The first words spoken are “you gotta keep goin’. There ain’t no end to it. You gotta keep movin’,” followed by an elderly woman saying “I’m going to do it, because I can’t depend on those people.” Though not made directly clear, it seems she is speaking about the failures of America’s leaders and governing agencies to adequately address the problems facing her community, and images of police sirens and prayer circles paint a somber picture. “So many of us are are hurting, and we’re confused, and we’re angry,” another woman says before a young man forcefully states “I want my voice to be heard so bad, but I can not.” J. Cole’s “Change” plays as competing images are spliced together: smiling children on a playground, an aggressive law enforcement officer attacking a camera, a church gathering, and eerie surveillance footage.
Given the political and social bent of 4 Your Eyez Only the album, Cole’s apparent decision to make a film documenting the pain and beauty of his community is fitting. As Entertainment Weekly reports, “The documentary promises to illustrate how their struggles over viable housing, voting laws for felons, integration, and more mirror the frustrations felt across the nation.” 4 Your Eyez Only the film will air on HBO at 10pm on April 15.