Wealth and fame did not shield Jermaine "J. Cole" Cole from the judgment of neighbors and police, who sent a SWAT team to his North Carolina studio under suspicion that he and fellow artists were growing and selling marijuana. The rapper used his surveillance video of the raid as his music video for "Neighbors," which he released yesterday (May 1).
Portions of the video, which you can see above, originally appeared in "J. Cole: 4 Your Eyez Only" documentary, which is available in full on YouTube. Named after his latest album, the special mixes short music videos with clips of Cole's conversations with Black residents of Southern and Midwestern cities like Fayetteville and Ferguson about police brutality and community empowerment.
Keeping with that documentary's themes, the "Neighbors" clip opens on predominantly White police officers in helmets and body armor forcibly entering his studio, "The Sheltuh." The video then shows the officers kicking out his back window, talking to a neighbor and eventually taking down the cameras filming their raid.
Album producer Anthony "Elite" Parrino told Complex that the raid happened while Cole and most of his team were at the 2016 South by Southwest Festival:
Basically Cole rented out a house in North Carolina. It's not for him; it's like a safe haven/creative workspace for all the [Cole's label] Dreamville artists and producers. We call it the Sheltuh, and a lot of the album was recorded there. It's basically a studio in a basement, in the woods.
It's also in the suburbs of a pretty wealthy neighborhood in North Carolina. So you have, predominately, African Americans coming in and out of this house. Ubers coming, and every once in awhile you'll see a group of us outside on the porch smoking weed. So the neighbors started getting real paranoid.
Apparently what happened was, we were all in Austin, Texas, for SXSW; thankfully no one was in the house when this went down. One of the neighbors told the police we were growing weed or selling drugs out of this house. And there was a huge investigation, like a million-dollar investigation. They flew helicopters over, sent an entire SWAT team armed with weapons, broke down the door and searched the whole house. Thankfully nobody was in the house. Our engineer Juro "Mez" Davis had just stepped out for lunch and he came back and saw the SWAT team busting down the door.
They go downstairs and all they see is a studio, and obviously they felt stupid. It's just crazy ironic because out of anybody, they picked the wrong person. J. Cole is the last person to do anything like that. He’s out here doing extremely positive things for the community and for young artists. Because of obvious racism from the neighbors, the police were called and a raid took place.
Neither Elite nor Cole have specified which police department sent the officers.
The "Neighbors" video includes the song's first verse, which echoes Elite's characterization of the studio:
Crib has got a big 'ol back 'ol yard, my n***** stand outside and pass cigars
Filled with marijuana, laughin' hard, thankful that they friend's a platinum star
In the driveway there's no rapper cars, just some shit to get from back and forth
Watch "Neighbors" above and the full "4 Your Eyez Only" documentary here.