(NEW YORK) — It only took a few hours for a six-minute song about race to spark a backlash after its release Monday.
The song, recorded by the unlikely duo of Brad Paisley and LL Cool J and titled “Accidental Racist,” was slammed by music critics and fans alike for its attempt at a dialogue on race between two men from starkly different backgrounds. The song features lyrics including “If you don’t judge my do-rag … I won’t judge your red flag” and “If you don’t judge my gold chains … I’ll forget the iron chains.”
The country singer, 40, and his rapper counterpart, 45, say the national debate sparked by their song, released on Paisley’s new album, Wheelhouse, is exactly what they wanted to happen.
“I’m not really sure we’re going to find any answers but it was the idea that we were asking the question,” Paisley said in an exclusive interview with his duet partner that aired Wednesday on ABC’s Good Morning America.
“Martin Luther King says that darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can,” LL Cool J said. “Hate can’t drive out hate, only love can. So what we’re talking about is compassion.”
“Accidental Racist” focuses specifically on how northerners like LL Cool J, who grew up in New York City, view southerners, like Paisley, a native of West Virginia, and vice versa.
“I’m not advising anyone to truly forget slavery, but what I’m saying is forget the slavery mentality,” LL Cool J said. “Forget the bitterness. Don’t get bitter, get better.”
Critics have been especially harsh on specific lines in the song, like LL Cool J singing “let bygones be bygones,” and Paisley singing that white Americans are “still paying for mistakes that a bunch of folks made before we came.”
“Some people take exception to some of the lyrics [and] I respect that,” LL Cool J said. “I’m sensitive to that.”
Paisley, for one, found out about the controversy from LL Cool J, who alerted him to the backlash after the video, in which LL Cool J plays a barista, was released on YouTube Monday.
“I got a call from this guy saying, ‘Have you seen anything?’” Paisley said, adding that LL Cool J went on to tell him to look at Twitter. “I was like, ‘No, I don’t want to look at it.’”
Despite the backlash, the two stars, who will sing together again on LL Cool J’s next album, to be released later this month, say they are proud of the song and the discussion it is creating.
“Let’s not be victims of things that happened so long ago,” Paisley said. “In the end, I felt like what we had on tape was something that people needed to hear.”
LL Cool J said, “At the same time, let’s respect it. But then after we respect it, let’s also open our hearts up so we can move forward.”
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Jim Bennett, Deseret News
Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com