A few years ago, I spent a weekend hanging out with country upstarts Big & Rich. They were good, smart dudes, trying to shake up staid Nashville with the Muzik Mafia movement, a kitchen-sink collective blending country, rap, rock, you name it. Remember Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy)? They've been hit or miss since, especially John Rich, who's spread himself thin by producing other people's records like a sleepless madman.
B&R never struck me as raging Republicans. In fact, as we talked in their tour bus, I pegged them for fun-lovin' liberals. But we'll get back to that in a second.
I'm on the record for loving Ludacris, the wickedly sharp rapper/actor with the quick lips, killer rhymes and thump-a-thump beats. In a recent Rolling Stone interview, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama called Luda (a.k.a. Christopher Bridges) one of his fave artists, complimenting him as a smart businessman. It was a nice shout-out, for both sides of the friendship.
And now this …
When I heard that Ludacris had recorded a song hyping Obama, and that John Rich had done the same for Republican presidential candidate John McCain, I tried to put my own political and musical biases on hold, 'cause that's what I'm supposed to do. I wasn't entirely successful. I assumed one would be smart, the other sappy.
But my assumptions were all kinds of mixed up.
When I heard the songs, I was first confused, then enlightened. Rich's Raisin' McCain has a real charm to it. It's a straight-up country-rock rumbler, not sappy in the slightest. It talks about the candidate's POW tenure and his ride to the brink of the White House. And as a campaign tune, it has great cheeky attitude. "Well he got shot down in a Vietnam town / Fighting for the red, white and blue / And they locked him up in the Hanoi Hilton / Thinking they could break him in two." I'm a little startled by Rich's political stance, but as a piece of music, it's the catchiest thing he's done in a while.
As for Ludacris, his Politics as Usual is a mean, clunky abomination. He calls Hillary Clinton the B-word. He says McCain shouldn't take a seat unless he's paralyzed. If that's an "old" joke, it's a lousy one.
But to be honest, I'm not sure what Luda is thinking. This is how he repays Obama's shout-out? Denigrating his opponents with brainless thug vitriol? The rapper — only after hyping his own greatness — even references the Rolling Stone piece. Not surprisingly, the Obama camp is slamming Politics as Usual with great urgency. I bet Ludacris pulls that sucker back real soon.
Then again, it's already scored more than 100,000 hits on YouTube. Rampant ego vs. political persuasion? With Ludacris, that could go either way.
Sean Daly can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.