Commentary: Common controversy was overblown

First lady Michelle Obama wants to celebrate America's creative energy, featuring artists of all ages and workshops for young people at the White House. How could that be wrong? Right?

Well, in some circles, it seems the first lady can only do no right.

As part of a series, the first lady celebrated American poetry and prose on Wednesday. She invited a number of performers, including the hip-hop artist Common, also known as Lonnie Rashid Lynn. Known as "a thinking man's rapper," he has been critical of the misogyny, violence and crime featured in a lot of the hip-hop scene.

As he said at the White House: "It's hard to see blessings in a violent culture / Face against weapons, sirens, holsters / That ain't the way that Langston Hughes wrote us."

But he's also been highly critical of the government.

For that, it seems, he's beyond the pale.

The critics single out two pieces. He "praised Black Panther cop killer," screamed one headline. "Called for burning of George W. Bush," blared another.

One of his works, "A Song for Assata," did challenge whether a woman was rightfully convicted in a 1973 cop killing. "Assata had been convicted of a murder she couldna done," Common rapped. "Medical evidence shown she couldna shot the gun."

The notion of wrongful conviction is a common theme in African American social commentary – and people certainly can question and debate whether Common is right in this particular case – but is he really praising cop killing?

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