Are they serious? Really, are Brad Paisley and LL Cool J serious? Wow! By all accounts it seems they are every bit of sincere and genuine as can be. Their duet “Accidental Racist”, released last week, seems as though it was unintentionally jettisoned through a secret portal from a parallel universe–it’s familiar, but wholly bizarre. According to Paisley and Cool J this song is intended to spark a much needed conversation about race and race relations from what appears to be the perspective of an historically unaware Southern white male and an all too forgiving urban Black male. The artists and certainly the song can’t be serious. Not only is it a strange artist pairing, but also wrong on so many levels.
Let me explain!
First level of wrong, the use of Country music to raise awareness of race relations in America or more succinctly race relations in the South is preposterous in so far as gaining the attention of the urban Black youth, whom the song very well wants to include in its conversation on the subject given Cool J’s presence on the track. Country music by in large is neither coveted by the urban Black millennials nor the urban Black Baby Boomers, generation X, or Y. In short, Country music from a Black perspective (partly mine) conjures up images of big country white men in blue jeans, cowboy boots, big brimmed hats, bolo ties, missing sleeved tee-shirts and plaid shirts, pick up trucks, beer, and the Confederate flag. As such, its real or imagined imagery repels the social and cultural sensibilities of urban Blacks. The likelihood of Black urbanites purposely seeking out “Accidental Racist” as a musical interlude or a method of escape from the pressures of ghetto life in the hot wicked city is remote at best. Brad who? Paisley’s song can’t be serious.
Second level of wrong, is the fact that Paisley recruited Ladies Love Cool James, a.k.a. LL Cool J to kick a ‘para’ verse. For you millennials who may be reading this, I’m referring to the guy who hosted the Grammys, yeah him! For the rest of us, Cool J is the man! Remember “Radio”, “Rock The Bells”, “I’m Bad”, “I Need Love”, “Around The Way Girl”, and the redeeming “Mama Said Knock You Out”? I’m not sure how this Paisley/Cool J collaboration came about, but . . . Well let me say it this way, Cool J has amassed an unprecedented rap career wherein which he is about to enter his 30th year in the so called rap game . . . (applause here). He has diminished his bad boy persona enough to make significant inroads to Hollywood and Television. Hell, he boldly took off his cool ass Kango to costar in NCIS Los Angeles. Whaaaat! He’s had his time. He’s had his day and it is now dwindling down as far as the rap game is concerned. Cool J’s rap prowess is legendary, however he holds little cultural capital in today’s Hip Hop world. Urban Black audiences barely responded to his last album release Exit 13 in 2008. If Paisley’s intention was to reach beyond his legion of Country music fans and into the world of the urban Black youth who would otherwise ignore his music he missed his target with the enlistment of the G.O.A.T. Paisley’s song can’t be serious.
Finally, and the third level of wrong are the lyrics of the song. Paisley’s verse and chorus are laughable in their sincerity. Don’t get me wrong his vocal delivery coupled with his chord progressions are remarkably sturdy in terms of what is expected in a mid tempo Country song. However, what is problematic is the content. It is what he is saying, which can be deemed laughable. His lyrics suggest a southern white man wearing a Confederate flag t-shirt while ordering a coffee from an urban Black youth barista in Starbucks should only be viewed as a Lynyrd Skynyrd fan. Is he serious? In no way shape or form does Lynyrd Skynyrd come remotely close to the outer hinterlands of the cultural consciousness of the urban Black youth. Who is Lynyrd Skynyrd? That Confederate flag emblazed on the t-shirt holds a meaning that is imparted to Black youth by the community in which they live, their family, and personal experience. Paisley’s narrative suggests a dismissal of the horrible history indelibly connected to the Confederate flag within the Black community. With these lyrics, Paisley seems sadly unaware of cultural and social realities surrounding race relations. Furthermore, and most distressing are LL Cool J’s lyrics.
His vocal delivery unlike Paisley’s is underwhelming and appears opaque in comparison to his previous beastly recordings. But disturbing is what he says. One line in particular, which has become controversial in terms of its forgiving nature, is as follows: “If you don’t judge my gold chains, I’ll forget the iron chains.” Cool J, can’t be serious. He suggests that if Southern whites stop racially profiling urban Black males then they will in turn forget the enslavement of millions of Blacks. This is not going to happen. Upon hearing this, MSNBC The Cycle host, Turé expressed his outrage with Cool J verse and said, “I’m not going to forget it” . . . “what are you talking about?!” . . . “Mama should knock you out!” When confronted, Cool J struggled to clearly explain what he meant by that particular verse. Surely, Cool J cannot himself believe in this verse. This lyric is completely out of sync and opposed to the current conversation on race and race relations in America. Paisley and Cool J can’t be serious.
In the end, the song “Accidental Racism” is a flop. It will fail to engage productive discussion. The use of Country music to enter an on going discussion on race and race relations was a poor move to secure the urban Black youth. The employment of LL Cool J does not make sense either–his popularity and familiarity with both urban Black youth and Southern whites is waning to non-existent. Lyrically the song pays no attention to the realities of urban Black or Southern white culture. Are they serious? I am!