John Mellencamp, who is often outspoken about racial injustice in the U.S., recently revealed why he’s not a fan of rap songs.
In a podcast interview with Bill Maher that released Sunday, the rock singer explained that he disagrees with the use of racial slurs.
“That’s what I have against – not against – but, you know, why I’m not a big fan of rap music. It’s like, you guys are selling out what the people stood up for and fought for, and you’re making money off of it selling it to white kids?” Mellencamp said on the Club Random Podcast.
“I don’t like it. I don’t like that.”
The “Jack & Diane” singer has long had an aversion to the racial slur – seemingly even when used in the context of cultural re-appropriation – as Mellencamp mentioned that he and rapper Chuck D “were talking about the N-word – we were talking about how it’s not supposed to be used” while working on the track “Cuttin’ Heads” for his 2001 album of the same name.
John Mellencamp recalls seeing racism firsthand as a teen in an integrated band
Mellencamp’s comments were made during a conversation with the “Real Time with Bill Maher” host about systemic racism, in which the two shared their different views on its prevalence in 2023.
The racism that he witnessed as a teen performing in a band with both Black and white members is persists today, Mellencamp told Maher.
“I was not familiar with how hateful people were to Black people until I was in The Crape Soul (band),” he said.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee started the band when he was 14 years old and the other members were in their 20s. Bandmate Fred Booker “was Black, so I learned a lot about race real quick in 1965, 1966,” Mellencamp said.
“They loved us on stage because half the band was Black, half was white. They loved us on stage,” he said. But “It’s when we came off stage” that their audience’s attitude changed.
Mellencamp shared that he was given a gravity knife to use against people, seemingly in case of a racist incident at a show.
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John Mellencamp’s history of speaking out on racial injustice
Between taking a knee during an appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” and reportedly speaking out against antisemitism during a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction speech for his longtime attorney last year, Mellencamp has a long history of addressing racial inequality and hate.
The southern Indiana-born artist has previously discussed the impact that being part of The Crape Soul had on him as a teenager. One of those times was in a speech before he performed the civil-rights anthem “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” in a 2010 appearance at the White House during Barack Obama’s presidency.
“The kid I sang with, he taught me how to dance, he taught me how to sing,” Mellencamp said of former bandmember Fred Booker. “And people loved him — when we were onstage. It’s when we walked offstage, they said, ‘You guys, take that young man outside.'”
He added, “He’s only a 16-year-old kid. He never said it hurt his feelings, but I knew it hurt his feelings. And it made a big impression on a 14-year-old John Mellencamp.”
Booker’s family was one of a handful of Black families in Seymour, Indiana, in the mid-1960s.
Mellencamp’s catalog of songs includes multiple tunes addressing race relations, including 2007’s “Jena” and “Jim Crow” as well as his 2001 single “Peaceful World.”
The lyrics to “Easy Target,” off his 2017 album “Sad Clowns & Hillbillies,” include “So, Black lives matter/ Who we trying to kid/ Here’s an easy target/ Don’t matter, never did.”
Contributing: David Lindquist, Indianapolis Star
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