The CPAC ‘Founding Fathers’ Rap Performance: Not Racist, But Not Helping

One of the best things about the Conservative Political Action Conference is the apparently buttoned-down atmosphere in which the most memorable stars and names tend to not be the presidential candidates and national figures we see on television every day, but bloggers and artists that work mainly on the internet. One of the worst things about CPAC is, well, exactly the same thing. Take, for instance, this performance of a “founding fathers rap” that, to some, is simply an unfortunately unfunny endeavor, but others are already slamming as racially problematic.

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The performance of “Mr. America,” a song by conservative comics and commentators Steven Crowder and Chris Loesch is based on the follow video which debuted on the internet yesterday, of the Founding Fathers returning to America in 2012 and expressing disappointment at what we Americans of today have done to their precious country. Crowder, you may remember from last year’s CPAC, is the Fox News contributor boasting the best Keith Olbermann impression since Ben Affleck. Before watching the performance, take a look at the pretty high-gloss music video:

I preface any opinion of this video by admitting a bias: the entire concept of white people rapping for comedic effect is lost on me. That Natalie Portman Saturday Night Live sketch where she “goes hard”? Does nothing for me. This sketch, with Sarah Palin? Much of the entire discography of The Lonely Island? I just don’t get it. There is nothing inherently funny about the act of white people rapping– you have to put in a little bit more work than that to get a chuckle out of it.

With that out of the way, it is worth noting that much of the criticism they have received is that their work is not funny (except for Wonkette, but they’re a comedy blog as much as a political one), but rather, that it has unfortunate racial implications. So what’s so bad about a couple of guys rapping the Founding Fathers being dismayed at President Obama (who, while not mentioned by name, is certainly the target for at least part of the ire)? Well, much of it has little to do with the original video, but with their performance of the song at CPAC yesterday, where the line “knickers”– clearly meant to sound like a racial epithet, which is apparently meant as a joke– is accompanied by the one visible black man in the room walking out. [Update: Loesch tells us (and Crowder confirms) that the gentleman just happened to walk out temporarily (apparently to the mixing console), and that he “told us he enjoyed it.” Loesch adds, “the producer of the song was in the video, was in on the gag and is black.”] There is also an elder white lady grooving that is either hilarious or tragic (edit: it is conservative blogger Cynthia Yockey), depending on how much of a glass-half-full type you are about humanity, and a bit of a gratuitous slam in the lyrics on Tyler Perry:

Not the best optics in the world, no– unintended though they apparently were, and as much as it is not the fault of anyone involved with this production that the details of it were taken out of context and no comment from people actually in the room was used in many of the reports that went ahead and reported “knickers” as the full n-word and rolled with the narrative. Not at a CPAC that will be remembered as the one where they kicked out the once-welcome gay conservative group GOProud in lieu of white nationalist groups. And not one where Cal Thomas made a birth control joke about Rachel Maddow, once a respected guest at CPAC. Not at one where the only memorable words from James O’Keefe were “fuck the media.” Even if none of this has anything to do with Crowder and Loesch’s actual video, these issues tend to snowball to form a narrative in the eyes of a media that is already predisposed to looking askance at conservatives– at least, according to many conservatives, who insist they never get the benefit of the doubt. And if conservatives are to live by that philosophy, they have to think stunts like this through if they want to avoid greater media scrutiny. Even if the entire performance was likely meant as a jab against those on the left that accuse everyone on the right of being racist early and often, and it might work well (or disastrously, it’s a matter of taste) in the music video itself, someone should have really known better about how this would play to the world outside of that conference room. In the immortal words of Maebe Fünke, this one, for the left-of-center media, was a freebie.

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It is impossible to say how this would have played in a different context, but the fact that the video circulating is their debut performance (and not the actual video) goes to show that maybe there isn’t much to be outraged about in the actual work. Except, of course, the idea that white people rapping is funny.

This post has been edited from its original form to add comment from Loesch and Crowder..

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