Rapper “Common” recently performed for “poetry night” at the White House. “Objection!” said the out-of-touch, Golf Channel-watching, Pat Boone-loving right wingers, who called Common unworthy of an invitation to the People’s House. The Comedy Channel’s hip Jon Stewart ridiculed the unhip for their outrage. Who’s right?
White House press secretary and apparent rap-o-phile Jay Carney, who hails from the mean streets of the Lawrenceville prep school and Yale – where he majored in Russian and Eastern European studies – defended Common as “socially conscious.”
Common ought not, therefore, be grouped with non-socially conscious rappers – the gold-chain-wearing, crotch-grabbing, dope-smoking, dope-selling, misogynistic kind who riff about killing cops, hating whites and fighting the ever-present and all-encompassing racism practiced by The Man. (The Man, of course, briefly left his post in November 2008 and allowed the election of a black president. Everybody has bad days.)
Think of Common as a black Ward Cleaver, up from the ‘hood, who comes in from a hard day at the office, sets down his briefcase at the coat rack, hangs up his tweed jacket and shouts, “B—h, where’s my dinner?!” Sure, Common, like the non-socially conscious rappers, has rapped about killing cops, beating up white people and burning President George W. Bush. But to be fair, even Common lovers admit that the first two might not be all that socially conscious. This is a poet with a soft spot – for blacks who murder white cops.
President Barack Obama’s White House celebrates open-mindedness and tolerance. For example, Obama just dined with the socially conscious Rev. Al Sharpton, the whitey-denouncing race hustler who rode to fame by falsely accusing a white former assistant district attorney of raping a black teenage girl. Sharpton’s incendiary rants – “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house” – helped ignite a riot in Crown Heights that left a hundred wounded and a Jewish student stabbed to death.
Unlike Sharpton, Common never called then-New York Mayor David Dinkins, the city’s first and only black mayor, a “nigger whore.” Besides, Common and Obama go way back. They both belonged to Trinity United Church of Christ, presided over by the Rev. Jeremiah “United States of KKK” Wright.
So what’s the problem with Common?
His daughter is named after Assata Shakur, a Black Panther formerly known as Joanne Chesimard. Shakur was sentenced to life for her role in the execution-style murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. Shakur broke out of prison and fled to Cuba, where she still lives under political asylum. Congress passed a resolution demanding that Fidel Castro return her to the States. The FBI calls her a “domestic terrorist” and offers $1 million for her capture.
Now it’s possible that Common named his daughter after Shakur because he likes the name. On the other hand, he did write a poem in which he calls Shakur an innocent woman wrongly convicted by the racist criminal justice system.
This would be the same racist criminal justice system the socially conscious rapper insists unjustly convicted Mumia Abu-Jamal, currently serving a life sentence for the execution-style murder of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner. But let us not single out Common. Abu-Jamal defenders include Hollywoodies Ed Asner, the late Paul Newman, Susan Sarandon, Ossie Davis, Mike Farrell, Tim Robbins and Whoopi Goldberg, as well as the French. Not all of the French, just the ones like the then-mayor of Paris who made Abu-Jamal an honorary citizen and the Parisian suburbanites who named a street after him.
Common does not personally advocate violence. He merely adopts a character and becomes a tool through which urban angst of the streets is given voice. Does actor Anthony Hopkins actually eat people with some fava beans and a nice Chianti?
Middle-agers, who grew up on Motown, are hopelessly out-of-touch. Why, if it were today, Smokey Robinson would be doing drive-bys on Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. Stax and Motown would trade lead over which label was “keepin’ it real.” Otis Redding would be sitting on the dock of the bay, recovering from gunshots fired by the Temptations – strapped, cruising the streets in a tinted SUV, searching for respect. It’s hard out there for a pimp.
When not rapping, Common stays in touch with his inner Klansman. Like the Klan, Common condemns interracial dating. Sticklers might recall the heat then-presidential candidate George W. Bush took when he agreed to speak at Bob Jones University, which, at the time, forbade interracial dating among students without parental permission.
When asked about “mixed-race relationships,” Common explained: “I disagree with them. … Sometimes to get back up to the level of respect and love, you’ve gotta stick with your own for a minute and build a certain amount of strength and community within yours so that other people can respect and honor your traditions.” Unlike the Klan, Common approves of interracial sex, in which he admits having indulged. He opposes only interracial relationships, like the kind that produced … President Obama.
Maybe Common will rap about that at next year’s poetry night. Until then, peace out.