Rapper Common suddenly finds himself in the midst of controversy after accepting an invitation to be part of the White House's “Poetry Night” this week. The Chi-town MC, who will join Jill Scott, Billy Collins, Elizabeth Alexander and others as guests of President Barack Obama and the First Lady for tomorrow's celebration of American poetry and prose, has become a target of conservative politicians and media outlets.
Tucker Carlson's The Daily Caller, Fox Nation and Sarah Palin have all weighed in on Common's invitation rehashing old beefs from the 2008 Presidential campaign. Providing fodder for the talking heads, Neil Munro of the Daily Caller cited “A Letter to the Law,” a poem Common performed on HBO's Def Poetry television series. The offending lines include “Burn a Bush cuz for peace he no push no button,” “I hold up a peace sign but I carry a gun” and a reference to the line “My uzi weighs a ton” from Public Enemy's song by the same name — something Munro has no idea about.
But no, it doesn't stop there. Fox Nation picked up the story under the headline “Poet? Rev. Wright Defender and Promoter of Cop Killing Invited to White House.” A freestyle Common did at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ in 2008 before the President distanced himself from the reverend was offered as evidence of the rapper's controversial profile. Then again, many conservatives view Rev. Wright in an exaggerated way so beautifully captured by the satire of the Boondocks:
Media Matters for America called out Fox News' hypocrisy on the controversy. This week's “Vile Rapper,” as Fox Nation called Common, was just the opposite last year on the network. As the liberal watchdog group has it:
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
Looking back at recent history, First Lady Laura Bush postponed and then canceled a poetry symposium in 2003 fearing that some of the invited guests would recite poetry against future military action Iraq. And Common is the violent one? If there is any controversy, it's that the rapper isn't following in Poets Against War founder Sam Hamill's footsteps in declining the invitation from the White House back then as wars and bloated Pentagon budgets continue on now.