Lupe Fiasco's Politics Spark Listener Debate

Rapper Lupe Fiasco's comments on Tell Me More about not pledging allegiance to the U.S. flag raised some eyebrows. Plus, a comment about Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrel's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" had one listener up in arms. Guest host Celeste Headley and editor Ammad Omar crack open the listener mailbox.

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CELESTE HEADLEE, HOST:

And now it's time for BackTalk. That's where we lift the curtain on what's happening in the TELL ME MORE blogosphere. Editor Ammad Omar is with us. What do you have for us today, Ammad?

AMMAD OMAR, BYLINE: All right. We're going to start off with a news update. We've covered the conflict between South Sudan and Sudan on this program quite a bit. In January, the south cut off all of its oil production because of complaints about how much the north was charging the south to pump oil through the north and that was a big financial blow to both countries. Also, violence over a border dispute earlier this year brought those countries to the brink of war.

But it looks like those tensions are easing a bit now between the world's newest country and the nation it broke away from. Sudan and South Sudan signed deals yesterday to restart the flow of oil and set up a demilitarized zone along the border, so we'll keep an eye out on how that works out.

HEADLEE: Yeah. That's a good update. What else do you have for us?

OMAR: All right. We got an earful from listeners about your conversation with rapper Lupe Fiasco earlier...

HEADLEE: I bet you did.

OMAR: ...this week. Yeah. You asked him about some provocative lyrics on his new album. It's a song called "Strange Fruition." Let's play a clip of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STRANGE FRUITION")

LUPE FIASCO: (Singing) Now, I can't pledge allegiance to your flag because I can't find no reconciliation with your past. When there was nothing equal for my people in your math, you forced us in the ghetto and then you took our dads.

HEADLEE: All right. So, on the program, Lupe confirmed he does not pledge allegiance to the American flag. He said his parents told him not to pledge when he was in school just to make his teachers happy, and you can listen to the entire interview at our website, but here's a little bit more of Lupe Fiasco talking about the pledge.

FIASCO: I don't think it's being an anti-American, an anti-patriotic kind of thing. I think, as Americans, we have the duty to understand our history, to understand the history of this country fully and completely.

OMAR: Well, Chivan Drew(ph) from New Rochelle, New York, tweeted us a very similar story. She said she decided to stop pledging in elementary school because of her political views. She tweets: The teacher stopped the class mid-pledge and demanded to know why I was seated. I said, I don't believe or agree, so I can't. She said I'd better stand, join the pledge immediately or risk detention. It was my first and only detention ever. Thanks for that, Chivan.

HEADLEE: We also got a little feedback from listeners who are disappointed with some of Lupe Fiasco's views, including his decision not to vote. Noah Stevens(ph) tweets this. Sad. So many casually dismiss a right so many died to have.

What else have you got, Ammad?

OMAR: All right. Speaking of music, we heard from Zach Wahls earlier this week about his favorite music.

HEADLEE: He made a name for himself last year when he spoke to the Iowa State Legislature about his two moms and same-sex marriage rights.

OMAR: Right. So Zach's no stranger to controversy.

HEADLEE: Right.

OMAR: But I don't think he expected to cause any fuss when we asked him about his favorite music and he described "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye as kind of a classic. Well, we got this letter from Doris O'Reilly-Dylan(ph) who lives in Lyndhurst, Ohio.

DORIS O'REILLY-DYLAN: Zach Wahls just described Marvin Gaye's "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" as kind of a classic. Please pass along to Zach, there is nothing kind of about it. As Diana Ross sang about Marvin, ooh, I'm missing you. I guess, regarding Marvin, you just had to be there.

OMAR: I guess so.

HEADLEE: That's great.

OMAR: Thanks, Doris, and you know we've got to play some of that song now. Right?

HEADLEE: Right.

OMAR: We'll dedicate it to Zach and Doris.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH")

MARVIN GAYE: (Singing) Listen, baby. Ain't no mountain high, ain't no valley low, ain't no river...

HEADLEE: Thanks. And, of course, remember, at TELL ME MORE, the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can call our comment line. It's 202-842-3522. Or just visit us online at NPR.org/TellMeMore. Remember to leave us your name. We're on Twitter, as well. Look for #TellMeMoreNPR. Thanks, Ammad.

OMAR: Thank you, Celeste.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AIN'T NO MOUNTAIN HIGH ENOUGH")

GAYE: (Singing) Baby, there ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough, ain't no river wide enough...

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