'Accidental Racist': Brad Paisley and LL Cool J draw ire
'Accidental Racist' puts racial dialogue under a microscope, drawing criticism for its collaborators: country singer Brad Paisley and rapper LL Cool J.
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The new song about racial perceptions has drawn ire from both the country and urban music worlds after its wide release this week. Paisley, the singer-songwriter known for his white cowboy hat and virtuoso guitar work, gave his first interview Tuesday since the hubbub began on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" after briefly addressing the debate Monday night on Twitter.
"I felt like when we were writing this song, it wasn't necessarily up to the media and I don't really trust Hollywood ... or talk radio or anything like that to sort of deal with that anymore," Paisley said on the show. "I think it's music's turn to have the conversation."
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The song appears on Paisley's new self-produced album "Wheelhouse," released Tuesday. It's his most ambitious album so far and the progressive message of "Accidental Racist" is in line with opinions the 40-year-old West Virginia-born singer has expressed before in interviews and songs.
Of the album, Paisley wrote on Twitter, "I hope it triggers emotions," and says he wouldn't change a thing about it: "This is a record meant to be FAR from easy listening. But fun. Like life. Have a ball, ya'll."
At its heart, "Accidental Racist" is about how cultural symbols favored by whites and blacks — the fashion choice of wearing Confederate flags or baggy pants, for instance — come loaded with meaning.
It's not a new discussion. Though race relations have evolved over the decades, cultural symbols continue to color perceptions.
Paisley uses the Confederate flag as an example in the song, noting whites are "caught between Southern pride and Southern blame" 150 years after the end of the American Civil War. The conflict was launched by secessionist pro-slavery southern states and ended with the abolition of slavery.
"I try to put myself in your shoes and that's a good place to begin," Paisley sings, "but it ain't like I can walk a mile in someone else's skin/Because I'm a white man livin' in the southland/Just like you I'm more than what it seems/I'm proud of where I'm from/But not everything we've done/It ain't like you and me can rewrite history/Our generation didn't start this nation/We're still paying for mistakes that a bunch of folks made long before we came." (Full lyrics available here.)