I’m a working class kid born and raised in upstate NY. Growing up the rules were simple: work hard, do your homework and go to church. Those values are what drive me to run for Congress: honesty, hard work and service. I believe that when you make a promise you keep it. #NY19 pic.twitter.com/YfYU4DsCBu— Antonio Delgado (@DelgadoforNY19) July 11, 2018
A black Democratic candidate for Congress is being slammed by Republicans because he recorded a rap album — 11 years ago.
Antonio Delgado has many achievements under his belt: he is a Rhodes Scholar, a graduate of Harvard Law School and a former lawyer at one of the country’s largest lobbying firms but the feat that has been under the spotlight, thanks to his Republican counterpart, is the fact the he used to be rapper under the stage name “AD the Voice.”
In the race for New York’s 19th District, Republican incumbent John Faso termed the rap lyrics “inconsistent with the views of the people of the 19th District and America.”
The 2007 rap album from Delgado criticized social injustices and racial discrimination in the United States, going so far as to calling some of the founders as “dead presidents” who “believe in white supremacy.”
Faso has been trying to use the lyrics against Delgado.
“Mr. Delgado’s lyrics are offensive,” Faso told the New York Times. “It’s his responsibility as a candidate to answer for the controversial views he expressed in his lyrics and whether he continues to hold these views today.”
An ad by The Congressional Leadership Fund is being broadcasted, which uses a verse off Delgado’s rap and calls it a “sonic blast of hateful rhetoric and anti-American views.”
Faso’s friends have been doubling down on his effort to overshadow Delgado’s campaign because of the music he produced over a decade ago. One of those friends is Gerald Benjamin, director of The Benjamin Center at State University of New York.
“This is about culture and commonality with the district and its values,” he said.
“Is a guy who makes a rap album the kind of guy who lives here in rural New York and reflects our lifestyle and values?” said Benjamin, who does not consider rap to be “real music.”
According to Benjamin, “people like us” do not respond to “this part of American culture.”
Delgado thinks Faso’s attacks on his music are an attempt to “otherize” him, in a district with about 83 percent white voters. If successful, Delgado will be the first non-white candidate to represent the area. A recent poll showed him leading Faso.
Delgado’s music, used to highlight racial profiling and societal issues, is just one of many such examples. Many artists, especially in rap, use their art to talk about prevalent issues in American culture. In fact, Delgado attributed his political outreach to artists like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Lauryn Hill. Lamar recently made history after he won a Pulitzer for his political album DAMN.
Delgado defended his music, saying it made sense in the context at the given time.
“It was different contexts, different tactics, but same desires and same outcomes,” Delgado said of his album. “Issues like income inequality, issues like gender equality, issues like the pollution of our environment and climate change — these are all issues that I talked about back then as an artist that I’m now talking about.”
The Harvard graduate also blasted Faso for asserting a black guy did not belong to the community.
"In his dated mind-set, he thinks it’s accurate to suggest that if you’re black or if you’re of a certain race, you can’t be of this community,” Delgado said. “But I believe the community of people who are grounded in love and unity far outweighs the community of people he’s speaking to.”
While Delgado’s campaign is built around providing people with affordable care, Faso’s ship sails an entirely different way.
Apart from attempting to paint Delgado as someone who is not fit to represent the district, Faso has largely adopted President Donald Trump’s rhetoric.
He recently ran a Facebook advertisement, vowing to “Keep MS-13 out of New York,” a topic that has occurred repeatedly in Trump’s tweet.
However, Faso’s attempts at using Delgado’s rap career have been deemed “racist” by many residents.
Rabbi Yael Romer, the senior spiritual leader at Congregation Emanuel of the Hudson Valley, along with over 12 other clergy signed a letter, condemning the “thinly-veiled, racist attack for the purpose of insinuating fear in the voters in our district.”
Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: Delgado For Congress Website