I was listening to Imus in the Morning on the radio this morning (I know, right?) when producer Bernard McGuirk said something interesting during his Bernie Briefing segment. He mentioned that Common had been invited to attend a poetry reading to be held at the White House, and quoted some lyrics to suggest that the invitation was inappropriate.
Even I, whose hip hop knowledge is largely limited to pop acts like Eminem and Jay-Z, am hip enough to know that Common is one of the least sexist, least homophobic, generally least controversial rappers working today. But whatever — Bernie often lays covering fire for the phony outrage that regularly emanates from conservative geek shows like Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. I forgot about the story until several hours later, when I noticed this article on Media Matters:
“Very Positive”: Fox News’ Smear Of “Vile Rapper” Common Debunked By Own Reporting
Conservatives such as Fox News, the Daily Caller and Sarah Palin are criticizing the White House’s invitation to rapper Common for a poetry event over the purported vulgarity of his lyrics. Fox Nation, for instance, called Common a “vile rapper.”
But roughly half-a-year ago, Fox News had a different tone about Common. In an October 2010 report for FoxNews.com, reporter Jason Robinson interviewed the “rap legend” and told him, “your music is very positive. And you’re known as the conscious rapper. How important is that to you, and how important do you think that is to our kids?”
Common replied that it’s a “significant role. I just try to show who we are as well-rounded people and I’m happy to be known as the conscious artist.”
Others have debunked the silly outrage over Common’s invite. The Huffington Post’s Jason Linkins writes that Common is “not what I consider to be a ‘gangsta rapper’ or particularly prone to any of hip-hop’s legendary excesses. In fact, it was these excesses - ‘poppin glocks servin rocks and hittin switches’ -- that Common famously criticized in perhaps his most famous song, ‘I Used To Love H.E.R.’” The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf, meanwhile, notes that there’s a tradition of previous White Houses hosting people with purportedly controversial lyrics.
I won’t waste time attacking the bullshit presumption that the White House shouldn’t recognize or even acknowledge artists who produce controversial work. For some, it doesn’t matter that the particular rapper invited to the White House is one of the least controversial pliers of his trade. What’s important is that the black president invited a rapper to the White House. To those who are making noise about this, that’s enough of a crime.