Bill Cosby conceived and co-wrote a rap album.
The CD, called "Bill Cosby Presents the Cosnarati: State of Emergency" and released in September, is the latest socially conscious salvo from the comedian, who for more than five years has been increasingly vocal about problems in the black community.
Cosby brings his classic comedy show to Charlotte Sunday for two appearances at Belk Theater.
Cosby worked on the album with friend and music producer William Patterson, and guest artists including Ced-Gee, co-founder ofUltramagnetic MCs.
In tracks titled "Runnin'," "Dad's Behind the Glass" and "Get on Your Job," the Cosnarati raps, over electronic beats, about fatherless children, gang violence, crises facing black families and the importance of education.
Although important as a racial symbol - as the first black co-star of a TV series with "I Spy" in the 1960s and as the beloved role-model father Cliff Huxtable in "The Cosby Show" in the 1980s - Cosby did not make racial or social problems a direct focus until recently.
In 2004, he made a widely discussed speech at an NAACP event, chiding members of the black community for participating in or tolerating a variety of transgressions, from dissolving families to an embrace of criminal and drug cultures.
Reaction ranged from agreement to outrage. "The people who are negative and feel that this should not be talked about are the same kind of people who are watching their children get high percentages of venereal disease, high percentages of teenage pregnancies and not doing anything about it," he says.
"I'm calling for people to wake up," Cosby says. "With this rap CD, we're hoping by changing people's attitudes that they can make the difference in the apartment they live in, on the street that their children walk on when they go to church, to school, to wherever they play."
Cosby, at 72, has a half-century of performing success, but he continues to tour regularly, he says, because he loves it and because it helps pay for his activism.
"In my concerts, I come out, I sit down and I tell funny, funny stories. I don't make any demands except that we all have some fun."