BY: SUZEL GONZALEZ
Brad Paisley's new collaboration with rapper LL Cool J became the topic of fierce criticism just hours after it was released on April 8. The new song entitled “Accidental Racist,” is featured on the country artist’s new album “Wheelhouse” and appears to be Paisley’s honest attempt to address past and present race issues in the United States. The song begins with Paisley offering an apology to a man who waited on him “at the Starbucks down on Main” for his choice of wardrobe, which included a band t-shirt with the confederate flag on it. He assures the man that the only thing he meant to say when he decided to wear such a shirt was that he was a “Skynyrd fan.” "I’m just a white man comin’ to you from the south land, tryin’ to understand what it’s like not to be,” Paisley sings. “I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done and it ain’t like you and me can re-write history, our generation didn’t start this nation.”
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, the country superstar states that he believes “art has a responsibility to lead the way” and that although he is aware that he does not have the answer to these issues, “asking the question is the first step.” He went on to assure the public that the song was in no way a stunt.
“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,” said Paisley referring to LL Cool J’s involvement.
Many critics of the song made it clear that they truly believed this was an honest attempt on behalf of the country artist to begin a dialog, however, many agreed that he failed in his attempt. Others like MSNBC host Touré, an expert on race relations and experienced music critic, were not as kind to Paisley and found no redeeming value.
“I hate it,” said Touré. “No, you can’t just re-appropriate the symbol [Confederate flag] as you wish.”
Along with other critics, Touré pointed out that his biggest disappointment and source of confusion is actually not Paisley's lyrics, but simply the fact that LL Cool J participated in such a project. Although the rapper makes it clear with in the song that the Confederate flag symbol causes him, like many others, to feel as though the person wearing it wishes he wasn't there. He fails by critics’ standards to project and defend the views of many members of the black community. LL Cool J not only fails to represent, but actually brings a different perspective of forgiveness and shockingly even forgetting the act of slavery.
“If you don’t judge my gold chains, I’ll forget the iron chains”, LL Cool J sings.
“If you don’t judge me because I’m wearing a chain, I’ll forget about slavery?” said Touré “My God, LL Cool J talking about ‘forget the slavery mentality?’” he exclaimed. “Mama should knock you out!”
The controversial song clearly leaves much to be desired, but with a title like “Accidental Racist” it clearly has the ability to spark curiosity in many. Despite the fact that the song seems to simplify the subject and perhaps even tries to justify certain actions by classifying them as accidental, it might have a redeeming factor simply by the fact that it has shed light on a subject that is often not even touched upon by popular media. Like the song or detest it, it is important to remember that racism, even when it is accidental, is completely wrong and unfortunately still exists in the United States.
What's your take on the song?