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*A day after country singer Brad Paisley defended his controversial song “The Accidental Racist,” on “The Tonight Show,” the tune’s rapper, LL Cool J, sat down with host Jay Leno to explain his own intentions.

The track — ostensibly about fostering understanding between the North and South, and whites and blacks — set the Internet abuzz Monday on the heels of its release, with critics blasting its use of Confederate-flag imagery and LL appearing to let bygones be bygones regarding slavery. He raps in the song, “If you don’t judge my gold chains/I’ll forget the iron chains.”

“I would never, ever, ever suggest to anyone that we should forget slavery and act like that didn’t happen,” he told Leno Thursday night. “I understand the systemic racism that exists. I get that. But you know what? If that playing field is unlevel, and you think it’s unfair, then maybe putting down some of that baggage will help you make it up that hill a little easier.”

LL’s line, “If you don’t judge my do-rag, I won’t judge your red flag,” also rubbed folks the wrong way. He told Leno it wasn’t meant to compare the history of the Confederate flag — and the “rapes, the torture, the lynchings, all of the things associated with” the flag — with a do-rag.

“However, when you think about a kid like Trayvon Martin [the unarmed teen who was shot by a neighborhood watch caption last year] and think about some of the things that happen in society based on clothing, when you put it in its proper context, it makes sense,” he says.

“The song wasn’t perfect, and you can’t fit 300 or 400 years of history in a three- or four-minute song,” he continues. “A lot of people took offense to some of the lyrics, and ultimately I can’t defend the song, but I can clarify my intentions.”

Watch a clip from LL Cool J’s “Tonight Show” appearance below.