J. Cole’s 4 Your Eyez Only documentary aired on HBO Saturday night, and one of the clear highlights came at around the 24 minute mark, as viewers got what appears to be visual proof the song “Neighbors” was indeed inspired by real-life events. Elite, who co-executive produced the album 4 Your Eyez Only (which contains "Neighbors"), confirmed as much in a 2016 interview with Complex.
“One of the neighbors told the police we were growing weed or selling drugs out of this house,” Elite told Complex about the raid on The Sheltuh, the studio in North Carolina where Cole recorded his latest project. “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.”
The incident in question appears to have been captured by the studio's security system. In the footage, at least 12 armed officers approach the house. The multi-camera views cut to an officer kicking down one of the doors, while another officer disarms the very camera capturing footage of the raid.
Cole hasn’t confirmed where the footage came from, but at the most basic level his story checks out. The clip is time-stamped with the date March 18, 2016. That matches up with the March 11-20 dates of the 2016 SXSW Music Festival, as Cole rhymed he was with “the team down in Austin” while the flat “surrounded by the trees and Ivy League” was unoccupied.
Ibrahim “Ib” Hamad, J. Cole’s manager and Dreamville Records president, confirmed the footage was real via Twitter during an interaction with a fan.
@KingOfQueenz is this real footage from the "neighbors think I'm selling dope" story?!— Peter Dutton (@PeterDutton5) April 16, 2017
So there it is. Cole went platinum back to back with no features, then came back with receipts for his autobiographical lyrics.