J. Cole’s tearjerking visual for “Crooked Smile” not only pays tribute to the slain 7-year-old Aiyana Jones who was shot by a police officer during a 2010 home raid but delivers a strong message about racial profiling and the war on drugs. Director Sheldon Candis, whose latest cinematic contribution was the film Luv starring Common, recently spoke to VIBE about crafting an emotionally intense short film alongside Roc Nation’s star student.
“J. Cole and everyone at Roc Nation basically contacted me and were like, ‘Listen, we want to take ‘Crooked Smile’ and turn it into a social statement short film,” Candis says. “Recently, we’ve had people lose their lives, innocent individuals during police raids from petty drug deals. [‘Crooked Smile’] is a dedication to Aiyana Stanley Jones, a 7-year-old girl in Detroit who was unfortunately killed during a police raid.”
It was the North Carolina-bred rapper, whose sophomore effort Born Sinner beat release date competitor Kanye West’s Yeezus to gold status this past summer, who came up with the video’s concept.
“I was on the phone with J. Cole and he was like, ‘Listen, I really want to play Aiyana’s older brother, so let’s create a narrative story between me as this individual who does deal drugs… but is still a human being and he’s so excited about spending the day with his little sister,” he recalls, “but all the while the parallel is that there’s a DEA agent who, on this day, is going to raid his home and then what happens when something tragic occurs.”
Candis also gave kudos to Cole for nailing the performance. “I’m very proud of him. This is his first experience acting. He nailed it,” he says. “He gives a very conflicted performance and it’s all a very non-verbal, silent performance. He’s my Ryan Gosling. (laughs)”
Watch the “Crooked Smile” visual below.