Forget years of ongoing racial tension, we have bigger problems to worry about.
My friends, have we forgotten Dirt Road Anthem, the Remix? Has the sin called Over and Over evaporated from our cultural memory? And, to pose the eternal question, did we learn nothing from Mama Do the Hump?
I never thought I’d sound like the worst Southern secessionist, but some things are just meant to stay apart. Against all aural sensibility, country rap somehow exists. It even has a YouTube channel. So today I’ll be addressing a country rap song, because I obviously possess a passion for everything objectively terrible.
Oh, and I guess I’ll include jokes about racial tension… ya know, whatevs. We’re cool.
I admit, I’m currently basing my judgment on popular opinion. I haven’t actually listened to the song yet. So I’ll just… go… listen to it. Wha….t…evs… I’m…… cool…………..
To the man that waited on me at the Starbucks down on Main, I hope you understand
When I put on that t-shirt, the only thing I meant to say is I’m a Skynyrd fan
Oh, this is going places. Like, great emotional depths, I can see it now. But this is a country song, so maybe namedropping isn’t the worst thing. It’s not like he’s getting confused mid-metaphor:
The red flag on my chest somehow is like the elephant in the corner of the south
And I just walked him right in the room
Or pointlessly glorifying the Confederacy:
Just a proud rebel son with an ‘ol can of worms
Or rejecting race relations as an ongoing issue:
Lookin’ like I got a lot to learn but from my point of view
I’m just a white man…
I’m… going to need a break…
Okay, that was a joke. Well, the last one, the race relations one. And the picture. Pocahontas is obviously worse than Jar Jar Binks, but I suppose that’s a topic for another time.
Technically speaking, there isn’t a correct way for a yokel to croon the phrase, “I’m just a white man.” I will try, just to be sure. Nope. Totally nope. But, to be fair, Paisley occupies nice, genteel ignorance with this song. Most of his portion of Accidental Racist is just shallow treatment of a complex issue. But it’s a country song, so I get it. Paisley deserves a pat on the head and a cookie, not picket-sign scorn.
Then we get to LL Cool J. Oh lord, we get to Mr. Cool J. Here’s some of his lyrics, unedited, for your enjoyment:
Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood
What the world is really like when you’re livin’ in the hood
Just because my pants are saggin’ doesn’t mean I’m up to no good
You should try to get to know me, I really wish you would
Now my chains are gold but I’m still misunderstood
I wasn’t there when Sherman’s March turned the south into firewood
I want you to get paid but be a slave I never could
Feel like a new fangled Django, dodgin’ invisible white hoods
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 relationship between the Mason-Dixon needs some fixin’
RIP Robert E. Lee but I’ve gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me, know what I mean
“OH CRAP I was supposed to write lyrics for that Accidental Racist song! Crap crap CRAP! Quick, call my nephew. I’ll use his Black History month assignment. C- is alright for a fourth-grader, right? You’re right, no time to worry about that! SOMEONE GET ME A F***ING THESAURUS! What the f*** rhymes with Mason-Dixon?”
But at least he’s sorry.
The Huffington Post reports, “‘The song isn’t perfect,” (LL) admitted (on the Tonight Show). ‘You can’t defend a song, because art is subjective… But as long as people are having a conversation, then the art has done it’s job.'”
Yeah, I’m pretty sure if people are discussing how bad the art is, the conversation’s not going where you wanted it. Art may be subjective, but I assume your point wasn’t anything close to, “Dang, this may be the worst rapper is existence, and I’m including all the rapping grannies.”
Unless that was your goal, Mr. Cool J. If so, bravo.
For a more coherent and less-referencial opinion, here’s AP Race and Ethnicity reporter Jesse Washington.
“For some, (good intentions don’t) matter,” he writes. “It’s the result that counts — this is a song that, to many, turns some of the most stinging flashpoints of American racial history into aw-shucks anecdotes.”
Demetria Irwin, writer for TheGrio.com, had even more scathing things to say.
“I think (Paisley) had good intentions. I think he genuinely wanted to explore a topic. However, I don’t believe he doesn’t know what the Confederate flag symbolizes and what it means. There’s nothing accidental about that.”
Okay, so Accidental Racist was written by a couple of naive kids. It’s like school children attempting to analyze something vastly beyond their experience or expertise. Maybe it shouldn’t have been made.
But Paisley and Cool J wanted to address racial tension, right? The good intention is really important. And we live in a place where discussion is a possibility (at times), so let’s look on the bright side. Because of this song, I read pieces by smarter people like Jesse Washington and Demetria Irwin. Accidental Racist can eventually lead to discussion, and that should be appreciated.
So let’s move beyond this stupid, insipid song and into meaningful conversations. Ya know, the real burning questions of today. Like why country rap is a thing.