Suddenly there's a big controversy about a new song about racism by a white country artist and an African-American rap star.
One thing's for sure for now at least; LL Cool J probably won't be singing "Accidental Racist" with his buddy Brad Paisley when the rapper/TV star appears at Summerfest this year.
For those out of the loop, a new song by Paisley that addressed his racial opinions was released online to a storm of debate last week. The song "Accidental Racist" contained lyrics that portrayed how Paisley felt about things like wearing a cowboy hat or Confederate flag T-shirt and having people assume he was racist.
Some called it brave and provocative; others who listened to the lyrics felt it was probably the most horrible excuse for racial dialog in many years. I first heard snippets of "Accidental Racist" over the weekend; you probably won't find it online for a while. Monday morning, the song had been removed, no doubt in response to all the controversy.
Paisley's ode to his racial ideas about white Southern identity contained lines such as – "we're still paying for mistakes/That a bunch of folks made long before we came" and "I'm a white man living in the southland/Just like you I'm more than what it seems..."
Some of that actually sounds like the sincere thoughts of a white Southern man struggling with understanding racial issues. But "Accidental Racist" never gets truly offensive until rapper/TV star Cool J – adds a rap segment that seems amazing in its cluelessness.
What seems to have set most critics off is the part where LL tells Paisley that "I won't judge you by your red flag if you don't judge me by my gold chains. I'll forget the iron chains ... Can't rewrite history, baby."
Seems like a pretty superficial way to talk about slavery between two friends.
The song is on Paisley's new album, "Wheelhouse," released last week. Some smell publicity stunt but Paisley's representatives insisted it's a genuine expression of the country artist's feelings about contemporary race relations. With LL Cool J's appearance, it suggests an important conversation between two recording artists about race for their respective audiences, which is a high-minded enterprise.
That's the main reason the song has been slammed by music critics and social pundits alike. As social messages go, "Accidental Racist" seems hokey and too simplistic to take seriously as a profound musical statement.
After all, artists as diverse as Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Public Enemy, Stevie Wonder and a legion of others have managed to comment on social issues without stooping to the level of "Accidential Racist," which seems to promote more stereotypes than address them in a serious manner.
Along with pulling the song online, neither Paisley or LL Cool J have commented officially, although Paisley was said to have welcomed the debate over his new song.
As for LL Cool J, I don't think many people will be shouting out requests for "Accidental Racist" at Summerfest when he's on stage. But if most of the negative publicity has blown over in a positive way by then, who knows?
Maybe Paisley himself will make a surprise appearance.
Eugene Kane is veteran Milwaukee journalist and nationally award winning columnist.
Kane writes about a variety of important issues in Milwaukee and society that impact residents of all backgrounds.