A day after country singer Brad Paisley hit The Tonight Show to defend his controversial song “The Accidental Racist,” his duet partner LL Cool J sat down with the show’s host to explain his own intentions behind the tune.
The track — ostensibly about fostering understanding between the North and South, and whites and blacks — set the Internet abuzz Monday on the heels of its release, with critics blasting its use of Confederate-flag imagery and lyrics including:
PAISLEY: I’m just a white man
LL COOL J: (If you don’t judge my do-rag)
PAISLEY: Comin’ to you from the southland
LL COOL J: (I won’t judge your red flag)
“The song wasn’t perfect, and you can’t fit 300 or 400 years of history in a three- or four-minute song,” LL Cool J tells Jay Leno in Wednesday’s show. “A lot of people took offense to some of the lyrics, and ultimately I can’t defend the song, but I can clarify my intentions.”
He says the song wasn’t meant to compare the history of the Confederate flag — and the “rapes, the torture, the lynchings, all of the things associated with” the flag — with a do-rag.
“However, when you think about a kid like Trayvon Martin [the unarmed teen who was shot by a neighborhood watch caption last year] and think about some of the things that happen in society based on clothing, when you put it in its proper context, it makes sense,” he says.
LL Cool J also argued that he wasn’t trying to suggest that the history books be rewritten.
“I would never, ever, ever suggest to anyone that we should forget slavery and act like that didn’t happen,” he says. “I understand the systemic racism that exists. I get that. But you know what? If that playing field is unlevel, and you think it’s unfair, then maybe putting down some of that baggage will help you make it up that hill a little easier.”
Watch a clip from LL Cool J’s Tonight Show appearance below.