Country music star Brad Paisley is either an idiot or a genius. If he wrote the song "Accidental Racist" to stir a whirlwind of (mostly bad) publicity, he's a genius. But the negative cultural consensus strongly suggests he should have never been dumb enough to try to write a racial-harmony song.
Paisley performed the song as a dialogue with rapper LL Cool J, now a star on the CBS drama "NCIS: LA." He says he wrote the song when he felt he had to defend wearing a T-shirt celebrating the country band Alabama, a shirt with the Confederate flag on it. In the song, he tries to suggest to a black man he met that the flag just says he's a fan of the Southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Paisley sings, "I'm just a white man comin' to you from the southland / Tryin' to understand what it's like not to be. 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." LL Cool J wrote his half of the song, and replies in part: "I guess we're both guilty of judgin' the cover, not the book. I'd love to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air."
Cheesy? Sure. But isn't this the kind of Kumbaya sentiment liberal elites embrace in their quest for racial harmony? Yes, that's what they say. But when it's what you offer, they react with their true colors.
It was quickly trashed as racially clueless. NPR's new race-and-culture blogger Gene Demby, fresh from The Huffington Post, quoted comedian Patton Oswalt's tweet: "Can't wait for Brad Paisley and LL Cool J's next single `Whoopsy Daisy, Holocaust, My Bad.'"
Oswalt must have been mocking the clunkiest line in the song, when LL Cool J alludes to slavery by saying "If you don't judge my gold chains / I'll forget the iron chains." NPR's Demby complained "A lot of people felt as if it was kind of shearing off kind of the rough edges of our history."
Comedian and Current TV host John Fugelsang tweeted Paisley should have "gone with original title `Well-Intentioned But Totally Ignorant Institutionalized Racist.'"
If one wants to see both institutionalized racism and an embarrassing attempt at whites trying to pander on race, I'd rather recommend "The Jimmy Fallon Show" on NBC.
Dennis Coles, better known by his rap persona "Ghostface Killah," was introduced with great enthusiasm by Fallon, performing his song "I Declare War" from the new album "Twelve Reasons to Die." He was joined on the microphone by "Masta Killa" and "Killah Priest." Fallon even announced there was a "Twelve Reasons to Die" comic book soon available for sale - because it's never too early to sell the drug pusher/gangster lifestyle to children. That's their Kumbaya.
"I Declare War" was not an exceptionally violent rap song. It was a very typical violent rap song, with profanity and N-words, boasting about shooting and killing.
This was how NPR defined the concept behind the album, "the creation myth of a black superhero set in 1960s Italy." Ghostface "leaves to start a black syndicate, falls in love with a boss's daughter and makes a ton of money importing cocaine. For these crimes, the criminal organization he came up in murders him, and dumps his body in a vat of acetate. His former friends press 12 records from his remains, but when those records play, his vengeful spirit arises. Though he was rebuffed and disrespected in life, in legend the Ghostface Killah becomes immortal."
It should be seen as "totally ignorant institutionalized racism" for record executives to make millions of dollars selling an assembly line of poisonous music that glamorizes a violent criminal lifestyle. After many decades in which tens of thousands of young black men were gunned down by other young black men, how can it be said that country music is the genre that's terribly insensitive to what's happening on this war front? This rolling slaughter is now the "rough edges of our history," and the popular culture glorifies it, romanticizes it, and commodifies it.
Brad Paisley-shredding NPR is streaming this whole album on its website, applauding how it features "jangly, tumbleweed guitar that warms the cold-hearted comic book-style violence," and hailing one song for how our alleged hero Ghostface Killah "bobs and weaves with the track, but he maintains a forthright and basically conversational sentence structure, which, when he's describing the ways he might murder your children, really twists the knife."
NPR's reviewer is probably referring to the song "Murder Spree," which is a grotesque listing of vicious murder styles -- from dismemberment to pushing brains out the back of a human head. Spin magazine praises its "mix of brute violence and graceful eloquence."
This country is sick, and getting sicker. Don't blame Brad Paisley and LL Cool J.