Listeners Love Fiasco And Cash Connection

Tell Me More host Michel Martin and editor Ammad Omar open up the mailbag to see what listeners have to say. This week, the program's Twitter feed lit up when rapper Lupe Fiasco talked about why he's a big Johnny Cash fan.

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MICHEL MARTIN, 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've got a Twitter-friendly BackTalk today, Michel. We've got some numbers on that Twitter education forum we did a couple of weeks ago in Miami. And while you were doing the radio broadcast down there, there was an online conversation with the hashtag #NPRedchat. And the fine folks over at Twitter tell us that according to their analytics, 17 million people were exposed to the hashtag #NPRedchat. So those are tweets or re-tweets that come into people's feeds. And if you do the math, that's roughly the combined populations of the country's four biggest cities: New York, LA, Chicago and Houston.

MARTIN: Well, that's excellent. And it's still growing. So check out #NPRedchat if you still want to join the conversation. And we're also planning a lot of other conversations about education as well, so please do keep tuning in or streaming or tweeting, as you prefer.

What else do you have for us, Ammad?

OMAR: All right. Our Twitter feed lit up this week after we played a segment for our series In Your Ear. That's when guests talk about their favorite songs. And the rapper Lupe Fiasco surprised a few people when he said the Johnny Cash song "Man In Black" inspired his all-black album cover.

LUPE FIASCO: And I literally listen to this song, you know, almost on a weekly basis just to remind myself of the beauty. It's a beautiful song. Johnny Cash is a beautiful man. May he rest in peace. But this song in particular, he talks about why he dresses in black from head to toe. And he does it not to look like the cool rocker. He does it, you know, for prisoners, you know, who have been imprisoned way beyond, you know, the time that they should have been there. He does it for poor people. He does it for old people. He does it for sick people. He does it for people who've never heard the words of Jesus, you know, quote. You know, he does it for, you know, innocent victims, you know, of war and atrocity. You know, he does it for, you know, all these different reasons and he kind of counterbalances with, you know, he'll never wear a suit of white, you know, as long as, you know, we don't start making a move to make a few things right, you'll never see me wear a suit of white.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MAN IN BLACK")

JOHNNY CASH: (Singing) You'll never see me wear a suit of white. Ah, I'd love to wear a rainbow...

OMAR: All right. Duke University professor Mark Anthony Neal, who blogs by the name "the New Black Man," tweeted about it. So we asked him why he did that and he says it was nice to hear a young hip-hop artist paying attention to people who came before him, especially someone who played country and bluegrass, like Johnny Cash.

MARK ANTHONY NEAL: And he's not just doing it in simply the context of appreciating the music, but also seeing the political content and commentary that Johnny Cash represented and trying to apply that, you know, to what he's trying to do with his own music. Lupe has gotten to the point where he's viewed as kind of an outlier, an outsider within the music industry, and Johnny Cash very clearly saw himself in that role, you know, during the peak of his career.

OMAR: And keeping it tweet length, Matt Cunningham of the Windy City was happy to hear Chicago's very own Lupe Fiasco on the airwaves. And he tweeted on the handle Matt2chi(ph), wasn't really a Johnny Cash fan until TELL ME MORE and Lupe Fiasco's surprising interview on the subject "Man In Black." Thanks.

MARTIN: Well, thank you Matt, and thank you Professor Neal, and everybody else who wrote in. And, of course, remember at TELL ME MORE the conversation never ends. To tell us more, you can visit us online at NPR.org/TELL ME MORE. Please remember to leave us your name. We are on Twitter. Just look for TellMeMoreNPR.

Thanks, Ammad.

OMAR: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "MAN IN BLACK")

CASH: (Singing) Well, you wonder why I always dress in black, why you never see bright colors on my back. And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone...

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