NEW YORK -- Country music star Brad Paisley’s new album, “Wheelhouse,” is out Tuesday, but one song is getting all the attention and stirring controversy: “Accidental Racist,” which features Paisley with rapper LL Cool J.
“I’m just a white man comin’ to you from the Southland,” Paisley sings on the track.
The six-minute song attempts to tackle modern-day race relations and the legacy of slavery.
Paisley’s lyrics include, “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.”
Then LL Cool J chimes in: “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.”
The lyrical back-and-forth between the two has exploded into controversy, with critics calling the song everything from “bizarre” to “horrible.”
In one overlapping exchange, Paisley sings, “I’m proud of where I’m from, but not everything we’ve done,” while LL Cool J raps “If you don’t judge my gold chains, I’ll forget the iron chains.”
CBS News reached out to both Paisley and LL Cool J for comment but they’ve yet to respond. Paisley told Entertainment Weekly: “I just think art has a responsibility to lead the way, and I don’t know the answers, but I feel like asking the question is the first step and we’re asking the question in a big way.”
The controversy, according to Joe Levy, editor for Billboard magazine, is the way some people think this song has taken a complicated subject and “treated it in an after-school special kind of way, and they have a point there.”
Levy said on “CBS This Morning,” “But this is an important dialogue that Brad Paisley means to open. Race is not something people want to talk about in America, particularly not in country music. Paisley means this as a challenge to his audience.
“I don’t think this song is perfect. I think Brad Paisley is a great songwriter and a great guitarist. (“Accidental Racist” is) not the best song he’s ever done or the best song on this record, but I think it’s an important song. He meant it to be, and he knew what he was doing.”
Levy said, “This song is about walking into a Starbucks wearing a Lynyrd Skynyrd T-shirt and the unintentional consequences of that and the character in this Paisley song says, ‘I’m trying to look at things from another point of view.’ Now that’s an important dialogue that he needs to open. He wants people to talk. That’s the nature of the song. Well, he’s done it.”