LL Cool J’s collaboration with Brad Paisley, “Accidental Racist,” has kicked up a lot of dust, but the rapper seems to have expected as much.
As he told CNN, the song, which is from Paisley’s newly released album “Wheelhouse,” is a “bold statement” not just for country music, but for music in general.
LL joined the country star in offering what they bill as two sides to a story on race relations, prejudice and stereotypes in the U.S. Paisley sings from the perspective of “a White man comin’ to you from the Southland,” one who would wear a Confederate flag on his shirt to show that he’s a “Skynyrd fan.”
“They called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears. We’re still siftin’ through the rubble after a hundred-fifty years,” Paisley says in the song. “I try to put myself in your shoes and that’s a good place to begin. But it ain’t like I can walk a mile in someone else’s skin. … 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, and we’re still paying for mistakes that a bunch of folks made long before we came.”
In his verse, rapper/actor LL takes the perspective of a “new fangled Django, dodgin’ invisible white hoods.”
“Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood what the world is really like when you’re livin’ in the hood,” LL rhymes in the song. “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 … So when I see that white cowboy hat, I’m thinkin’ it’s not all good.”
He concludes his verse with a peace offering, rapping, “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. But I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn’t here.”
Paisley’s reps haven’t responded to CNN’s request for comment, but they did confirm that “Accidental Racist” was written by the country singer, along with LL Cool J and Lee Thomas Miller.
When CNN caught up with LL at Sunday’s Academy of Country Music Awards in Las Vegas, he said he felt the song accomplished what art is supposed to be.
“Music is about, and art is about, connecting different people, and building bridges and breaking the rules,” he said. “If it’s not compelling, and it’s not complex and it’s not interesting, then what are we doing it for? So I think that’s the right move.”
Plus, he concluded, he wanted to do something that was a little different from what he usually offers.
“I needed to do something that was going to be interesting like that, and shake things up, and jump out of the box,” he told CNN. “I’m really proud of it, and I hope the world hears it and enjoys it.”
CNN’s Denise Quan contributed to this report.