Millions of people were outraged by Paula Deen's racism controversy, but rapper Marv Mack may be the first musician to speak his mind about her downfall and what it means for America's social issues.
You probably remember the media firestorm from a couple of years ago when court documents from a restaurant-related lawsuit revealed that celebrity chef Paula Deen admittedly used the n-word and once insisted that all of the servers at a wedding be black men with bow ties in order to resemble slaves. Despite some (failed) attempts at apologies, the scandal led to the cancellation of Deen's Food Network series as well as the severance of her deals with Walmart, Target, QVC, diabetes drug company Novo Nordisk, and several other brands.
But earlier this month, Deen was in hot water again after images surfaced on her social media accounts of she and her son dressed as Lucy and Ricky Ricardo of I Love Lucy—with her son's skin tinted darker to resemble that of Cuban-American actor Desi Arnaz.
And the following day, Philadelphia-based rapper Marv Mack dropped a music video for a track off his new mixtape—Golden Band Aids—called "Paula Deen" that juxtaposes interview clips and images of the former Food Network star with media coverage of Trayvon Martin, the Michael Brown riots, and other news stories of the past few years that have involved societal and systematic racism. "Paula Deen, I'm gonna pray for you," Mack promises amidst shouts of "Trayvon! Trayvon!"
With racial discrimination against black civilians being a reemergent hotbed issue in the cases of Martin, Brown, Freddie Gray, and other high-profile cases in very recent history, Deen's remarks only carry all the more weight. We recently caught up with Mack, who was apparently a fan of Deen's cooking and programming prior to the scandal, to find out more about how one of the most famous home-cooking chefs in America can become a living, breathing synonym for institutional racism. His lyrics, "Paula Deen, I thought I knew ya," are undoubtedly about more than just the loss of a butter-heavy TV show.
MUNCHIES: Hi, Marv. We're all familiar with Paula Deen's racism controversy at this point, but what was the moment or trigger when you decided to create this song about her specifically? Marv Mack: I didn't intentionally mean to make the song specifically about her—it was just something that was on my mind at the time. I made the song a year or two ago, when I was watching the Trayvon Martin trials. I was infuriated by what was happening at the time. So I changed the channel to get it off my mind, and then there was the Paula Deen scandal, and I was like, This is crazy. So it kind of happened organically, from all of the content that I was seeing on the news. I was in the studio later that night, and my friend was playing a track beat or whatever, and the only thing that kept running through my mind was "Paula Deen, hallelujah." I thought, We need to do something with this. So we made the track, and it turned out better than I thought it would. I feel like Paula Deen got caught in the crossfire, rightfully so, but that was my way of addressing it.
For sure. What is it about her that makes her such a good example of America's contemporary issues with race—Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, etc.? I think she has become the go-to person in terms of racial discrimination. It's weird … when I made it, I was frustrated about everything that was going on. But before she had been in the news for all her bullshit, I actually liked Paula Deen. I was like, fuck, I like her macaroni—she has all these crazy recipes. Then I heard what was going on, and I was like, "Damn, really, Paula?" I kind of felt betrayed by Paula Deen, because she was making all of the Southern food that I like, with collard greens and macaroni and cheese.
Given that she's had a few different scandals at this point, what essential issue do you think is at the root of her words and behaviors? I think at the heart of it all, she is truly ignorant. That's how I truly feel. She might not think she's a racist, but at heart she is a racist. Does that makes sense? She's not going out saying, "I hate black people," or "I hate brown people," or "I hate Hispanics," or anything like that. But there's a certain level of ignorance that she has where she just keeps on making the same mistakes. It's not because she's going around saying, "I've got this book to sell, so let's get this racially charged momentum going." She literally does not know what she's doing or saying. I think it's just deep-rooted stuff that she learned in the South. In my video, I put in a clip where she says she actually felt compassion for her [great-grandfather] who killed himself because he didn't know how to deal with life after not having slaves. You know? That's crazy.
How common do you think that type of racism is? Nobody wants to consider themselves a racist, but at the end of the day, people have certain mentalities and stigmas about certain nationalities that make them racist. She may not do it intentionally, but in a way I kind of respect Paula for being her. Because a lot of people will say certain things like that just amongst their friends, and it's because of her that we're having these conversations. I have white friends, I have black friends, I have Asian friends and stuff like that, so I have heard a lot of these issues come up in conversation and we can talk about them. So it's because of her that things are out of the closet and out in the open.
On one hand, it was so shocking to hear about and read about these things she did, but if she really thought that the things she was saying and doing were terribly wrong, she probably would have hidden them more. Totally. I'm glad she felt comfortable enough to [speak her mind], but at the same time, it is what it is, and she needs to be held responsible for the actions she takes. A lot of other people are more discreet about it, but she has definitely become a poster child. When I made the video, when I was watching the Trayvon Martin trial—and in no way am I trying to be the spokesperson for all black people— but I felt kind of like Trayvon was the new Jesus for black people. He died for a lot of black people's mistakes. We all have mistakes—white, black, brown—but [I mean], this kid didn't do anything. He was chilling, getting his iced tea, his Skittles, ready to go home. And that situation just infuriated me watching the trials, and then to have Paula Deen popping up on the next channel with some bullshit that she was going through, I just felt like I had to say something. And I'm not even that guy who is always making racially charged music or anything like that.
Do you have any other songs that are so political like that? Not really. I feel like "Paula Deen," so far, is the only song that I have that is politically charged in that way. I felt like nobody was saying in the way that I could say it. It wasn't particularly about white people or black people. It was like, "Yo this is what I see in my neighborhood, this is what's going on here, and this is the reason why some of these things are happening." You know, I truly love Paula Deen's macaroni.
What kind of response have you received from people since you released it? It's really been positive. I received this one kind of negative comment from this lady on Twitter, who said "you know, I learned the n-word from my black friends." and I was like, what?! I was like, what black friends taught you how to say the n-word in the appropriate context? Send me a picture of these black friends. because some people truly suffer from Imaginary Black Friend Syndrome. I don't even like the phrase "black friends" or "white friends." I have friends who happen to be white. They're friends, and we have friends of all nationalities. But I have friends who are white who are like "I really feel what you're saying, it's a positive song and it's expressive. and it's not hating on one race or another, just explaining your point of view on shit."
Have you heard anything from any of Paula Deen's people? I bet they've caught of the song at this point. No. I don't know, she might send me a plate with some cyanide.
Thanks for talking with us.