Despite his reputation as a singer, songwriter and guitarist, Brad Paisley has never
been known to court controversy. That changed this week with the release of “Accidental Racist,” a collaboration with rapper
LL Cool J on Paisley’s new album Wheelhouse.
In a recent interview with CMT
Hot 20 Countdown‘s Katie Cook, Paisley described “Accidental Racist” as a “very traditional country song” that “sounds
like something Alabama or Lynyrd Skynyrd would’ve done.”
However, with lyrics centering
around the unspoken quandary of blacks and whites alike still subconsciously dealing with the implications of racism, the
song has grabbed headlines in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Time
and on the national TV networks.
Paisley, longtime co-writer Lee Thomas Miller and LL Cool J are credited with writing
the song. Among the lyrics Paisley sings:
I’m just a white man comin’ to you from the South land
Tryin’ to understand
what it’s like not to be.
I’m proud of where I’m from but not everything we’ve done.
It ain’t like you and me can rewrite
Our generation didn’t start this nation.
We’re still pickin’ up the pieces, walkin’ on eggshells, fightin’
Caught between Southern pride and Southern blame.
In his rap, LL Cool J says:
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.
the interview with Cook, Paisley said he and Miller started writing the song before a September appearance at the iHeartRadio
Music Festival in Las Vegas. Thinking that LL Cool J could provide a different perspective on the song’s message, Paisley
contacted a mutual friend and learned that the rapper would also be at the festival.
“He walks out and stands next
to Lee and watches my show,” Paisley recalled. “Then we walked backstage, and we met, and I said, ‘I’ve got this idea.’ I
didn’t tell him what it was, and he said, ‘Well, I’m coming to Nashville in, like, a month. Let’s get together.'”
he arrived in Nashville, Paisley gave him a tour of the city, including the historic Ryman Auditorium.
“I drove him
around in my truck,” he said. “But before that, he said, ‘I want to see the Ryman.’ … He had such respect for that place
and our heritage here. So he shows up and we walk through that building and stand on the stage. And in the Ryman Auditorium,
there’s a [plaque on the balcony] with letters that say ‘Confederate Gallery.’
“And he’s standing there — a New Yorker
— looking at that, and they’re explaining how Confederate soldiers built this place. He’s looking at me and says, ‘You know,
how great a country do we live in that you and I can stand here — after all this — together?’
“And he didn’t know
what the song idea was. I said, ‘You probably ought to come listen to something.’ And we had worked really hard on the lyric
and had my whole track done … and a space for him to do his part. Driving him around town, playing him that the first time
was one of the most heart-wrenching and nerve-racking experiences I’ve ever had as a songwriter.”