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J. Cole Fights War on Drugs in Video for TLC-Assisted ‘Crooked Smile’

J. Cole in the video for "Crooked Smile"

J. Cole’s “Crooked Smile” is an endearing pop song about body positivity akin to “Unpretty,” the single by TLC, whose two surviving members handle the hook on the newer track. But the song’s video takes on a different issue entirely: America’s war on drugs. Our host spells it out explicitly at the end of the clip — “Please reconsider your war on drugs” — but the preceding five minutes are a bit more nuanced.

Stuffing small bags of weed into spare shoes, Cole plays a small-time drug dealer with a modest modest, young daughter, and loyal wife. His activities eventually lead him into the not-so-loving arms of the DEA. It’s a slightly heavy-handed, but nonetheless effective, humanization of the victims of America’s drug war. The video comes well-timed for Cole, as “Crooked Smile” just became his fifth rap/R&B top 10 hit.

SPIN spoke to J. Cole in June ahead of the release of his new album, Born Sinner.