Debating Common Sense
Posted on May 11, 2011
The White House’s invitation to hip-hop artist Common for a “Celebration of American Poetry” event Wednesday evening has angered conservatives who have worked themselves into a frenzy about the intellectual rapper’s lyrics. Common, real name Lonnie Rashid Lynn Jr., is known to fans for thoughtful, sometimes political, tracks examining the American fabric and occasional acting gigs. His work is now quite mainstream and he has won two Grammys. In other words, he’s about as far from a “thug”—as former George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove called him Tuesday—as musicians get. But Common lyrics criticizing Bush and supporting convicted cop-killer and former Black Panther Assata Shakur have been more than enough fodder for critics.
The Obama administration is tentatively holding its ground by defending the invite while condemning any violent or misogynistic lyrics. If Common’s invite stands, that’s at least half a point on the board for free expression through art. —KDG
The White House Wednesday condemned some of the lyrics and prose of hip hop star Common, whose invitation to a White House poetry event this evening has brought criticism from some conservatives and police officers.
“The president does not support and opposes the kind of lyrics that has been written about,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said when American Urban Radio’s April Ryan asked him about the controversy.
Carney said the president has “in the past spoken very forcefully out against violent and misogynistic lyrics.”
Referring to “concerns by some law enforcement,” Carney said that “the president’s record of support for law enforcement is extremely strong.”
David Jones, the president of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association, voiced concern to the White House and to ABC News about Common’s invitation given Common’s song extolling Joanne Chesmard, a member of the Black Liberation Army, convicted in 1977 of the first degree murder of a state trooper and sentenced to life in prison. In November 1979, Chesmard escaped from prison.