Song of the Day #1,748: ‘Accidental Racist’ – Brad Paisley with LL Cool J

paisley_wheelhouseMy old pal Brad Paisley has been in the news a lot the past week or so, and not in a good way.

A track on his new album, Wheelhouse, called ‘Accidental Racist’ has been vilified as racist itself, or at the very least tone deaf about race relations.

The track, a duet between Paisley and rapper LL Cool J, is an imagined conversation between a “Skynrd fan” with a confederate flag on his T-shirt and a black Starbucks employee who (presumably on his off hours) wears a do-rag, sagging pants and gold chains.

Most of the controversy stems from lines rapped by LL Cool J in which he says “If you don’t judge my do-rag, I won’t judge your red flag. If you don’t judge my gold chains, I’ll forget the iron chains.”

Comedians and talking heads have had a field day with the suggestion that a century of slavery can be forgotten so long as southerners can learn to live with your typical hip-hop wardrobe. Stephen Colbert, as usual, delivered the funniest and most biting critique, singing his own version of the song — ‘Oopsie Doopsie Homophobe’ — with Alan Cumming as his guest rapper.

For their part, both Paisley and LL COol J did a commendable job explaining their intentions on The Tonight Show, and I suspect they both know this song was ultimately a bone-headed mistake.

I know what they were getting at, but boy did they ever miss the target. And perhaps worst of all, the song itself (lyrics aside) is just bad.

Unfortunately, Wheelhouse as a whole is Paisley’s weakest effort in many years. After releasing two of his strongest albums, Paisley seems to have tried to do too much and too little at the same time. The record has plenty of clever, ambitious moments but just as much lazy songwriting.

Perhaps the controversy and negative attention of ‘Accidental Racist’ will kick him back into gear.

[Verse 1: Brad Paisley]
To the man that waited on me
At the Starbucks down on Main
I hope you understand
When I put on that t-shirt
The only thing I meant to say
Is I’m a Skynyrd fan
The red flag on my chest somehow is
Like the elephant in the corner of the south
And I just walked him right in the room
Just a proud rebel son with an ‘ol can of worms
Lookin’ like I got a lot to learn
But from my point of view

[Hook: Brad Paisley]
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
Our generation didn’t start this nation
We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’ over yesterday
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

[Verse 2: Brad Paisley]
They called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears
We’re still siftin’ through the rubble after a hundred-fifty years
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

[Hook: Brad Paisley]
Cause I’m a white man livin’ in the southland
Just like you I’m more than what you see
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 the mistakes
That a bunch of folks made long before we came
And caught somewhere between southern pride and southern blame

[Verse 3: LL Cool J]
Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood
What the world is really like when you’re livin’ in the hood
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
Feel like a new fangled Django, dodgin’ invisible white hoods
So when I see that white cowboy hat, I’m thinkin’ it’s not all good
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

[Hook: Brad Paisley (w/ LL Cool J ad libs)]
I’m just a white man
(If you don’t judge my do-rag)
Comin’ to you from the southland
(I won’t judge your red flag)
Tryin’ to understand what it’s like not to be
I’m proud of where I’m from
(If you don’t judge my gold chains)
But not everything we’ve done
(I’ll forget the iron chains)
It ain’t like you and me can re-write history
(Can’t re-write history baby)

Oh, Dixieland
(The relationship between the Mason-Dixon needs some fixin’)
I hope you understand what this is all about
(Quite frankly I’m a black Yankee but I’ve been thinkin’ about this lately)
I’m a son of the new south
(The past is the past, you feel me)
And I just want to make things right
(Let bygones be bygones)
Where all that’s left is southern pride
(RIP Robert E. Lee but I’ve gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me, know what I mean)
It’s real, it’s real
It’s truth

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6 thoughts on “Song of the Day #1,748: ‘Accidental Racist’ – Brad Paisley with LL Cool J

  1. Amy says:

    I loved the SNL parody, as well. Yeah, it’s hard to imagine what anyone was thinking in this situation. Too bad that this will likely be the thing for which most people best know Paisley. Certainly doesn’t do much to advance the reputation of country music, at least in our circles. :)

  2. Amy says:

    I gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me?! I am dying here I am laughing so hard. This is the first time I’ve heard the actual song, though I’ve been enjoying the Colbert and SNL takes on it over the past week. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?! These lyrics seem as though they were cooked up by Conan. Paisley ought to fire every person associated with his label – his manager, his agent, the producer of this album – anyone who would let this song see the light of day. And LL Cool J?! His SNL counterpart’s “Did I say that?” has to be the best response I’ve heard yet for what caused him to sign up for this nonsense. Thank you for starting my Wednesday with such a good laugh.

  3. Clay says:

    It is baffling that this song was written, recorded, mixed and then selected to appear on the album (when many other songs were no doubt cut), and not one person said “whoa! I don’t think this is gonna go over the way you think it’s gonna go over!”

    I disagree that this is the thing Paisley will be remembered for. It’s tone deaf but not malicious. If Elvis Costello could survive the Ray Charles incident, Paisley will survive this. LL Cool J, on the other hand!

  4. Dana says:

    There are so many things wrong with this song, I don’t know where to begin! Thankfully, Colbert and SNL have already picked it apart, and the tune is so awful that it’s hard to imagine anyone giving this more than one listen.

    Paisley certainly has enough fans that he will move on from this. However, much like the equally popular Kane West and his offensive highjacking of Taylor Swift’s award moment, this debacle will follow Paisley for a very, very long time.

  5. Maddie says:

    Just gonna leave this here as an example of how a song of this subject can be done right. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cB_6fDcX5Es I am happy with all the humor that has been made of Paisley’s song though XD

  6. Amy says:

    Love that Maddie shared Watsky’s song. You should definitely consider featuring one of his songs (if not a whole week) as I can’t imagine you wouldn’t like – and appreciate – his clever lyrics. He is sharp, sharp, sharp.

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