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Common Performs Conscious Poetry at White House — Video

AFP / Getty Images

Undaunted by the recent right-wing criticism for his “vile” lyrics, Common performed a spoken word poem at yesterday’s (May 11) “An Evening of Poetry” at the White House without any pauses.

Earlier in the week, conservative websites like Fox News Nation threw some verbal punches at the Chicago rapper-turned-actor, charging he was a “controversial” pick because his lyrics threatened to shoot police and spoke ill of former President George W. Bush.

“Yes, let’s invite a misogynist to the White House, a guy who’s called for violence against police officers, and called for killing the former president of the United States George W. Bush,” former White House Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove disputed during a discussion of Common’s appearance on Fox News’ ‘On the Record With Greta Van Susteren.’ He also called the two-time Grammy winner “a thug.”

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was forced to comment on the commotion caused by the invitation. He told the Washington Post yesterday (May 11) that Obama “has spoken out about very strongly … against those kinds of lyrics and he opposes them, but he does not think that is the sum total of this particular artist’s work.” He also vouched for Common, saying he was “known as a socially conscious hip-hop artist.”

Both President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were present in the East Room audience last night, as well as several high school students. Obama did not mention any of the controversy surrounding Common’s appearance, and instead focused on poetry and arts education. The evening was part of the White House Music Series and included fellow musicians Aimee Mann and Jill Scott; comedian Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers; and esteemed poets Rita Dove, Billy Collins, Alison Knowles and Kenneth Goldsmith.

For his turn, Common rapped: “I woke up with the sunshine, a sunshine I had never seen. There was light at the end of it, reminding me to forever dream. I was dreaming I walked into the White House with love on my sleeve and love for each and every one of you, reminding you to believe.” He also valiantly touched on America’s political climate again in his insightful recitation: “It’s hard to see blessings in a violent culture/ Faced against weapons, sirens, holsters/ That ain’t the way Langston Hughes wrote us ….”

Watch Common Perform at the White House

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