By Maurice Bobb
Monday (April 8) was not a good day for LL Cool J. The legendary Queens rapper went from G.O.A.T. to goat in social media after his lyrics on “Accidental Racist,” a post-racial collaboration with Brad Paisley, came under fire from critics and fans alike when the track hit the Internet ahead of the release of the country singer’s ninth studio album, Wheelhouse.
Uncle L, who has his own new LP, Authentic, set for release later this month, was the target of countless acerbic rants and jokes on blogs and, of course, Twitter for the following line: “If you don’t judge my do-rag / I won’t judge your red flag / If you don’t judge my gold chains / I’ll forget the iron chains.”
The “Mama Said Knock You Out” MC’s verse was in response to Paisley’s empathetic crooning about a Starbucks employee taking his Confederate flag t-shirt as a sign for white supremacy, which makes him an “Accidental Racist” because he doesn’t believe that the flag symbolizes racism, singing, “I’m a white man living in the southland…I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done,” and “It ain’t like you and me can rewrite history…walking over eggshells,” before adding in an “aw shucks” manner that he’s “A proud rebel son … lookin’ like I got a lot to learn.”
Probably the most humorous tweet to come out of yesterday’s onslaught was from The Roots’ ?uestlove, who tweeted, “Just heard the “Accidental Racist” man that Weird Al is amazing.”
Outside of motivational tweets, the “NCIS: Los Angeles” actor has not directly or officially responded to the song’s rampant criticism, but Paisley, who likely enraged his loyal fanbase with the song, spoke to Entertainment Weekly about the song’s intentions, saying that the song was not a publicity stunt for his new album but was meant to be a window into America’s “adolescence” stage as it pertains to racism, where sometimes it feels like things are getting better, but other times it doesn’t.
“I think that [the song] comes from an honest place in both cases, and that’s why it’s on there and why I’m so proud of it,” he said. “This isn’t a stunt. This isn’t something that I just came up with just to be sort of shocking or anything like that. I knew it would be, but I’m sort of doing it in spite of that, really.”
The 2008 CMA and ACM Male Vocalist of the Year added that art has a responsibility to lead the discussion on difficult topics and ask hard questions.
“It really came to a boil last year with ’Lincoln’ and ’Django [Unchained] and there’s just a lot of talk about it,” he said. “It was really obvious to me that we still have issues as a nation with this … We’re asking the question in a big way. How do I show my Southern pride? What is offensive to you? And he kind of replies, and his summation is really that whole let’s bygones be bygones … We don’t solve anything, but it’s two guys that believe in who they are and where they’re from very honestly having a conversation and trying to reconcile.”
The road to hell is paved with good intentions, let’s just hope that LL Cool J’s sonic misstep won’t cause him to be banished to the fiery pits of “Slander Hell” for an eternity.