New York 19th Congressional District hopeful Antonio Delgado is pushing back this week after Republican incumbent John Faso seized on an article in Monday’s New York Post highlighting lyrics from Delgado’s 2006 hip-hop album to argue that his opponent is out of step with the views of his would-be constituents.
The article highlights a number of lyrics from Delgado’s — under the nom de rap AD The Voice — 2006 effort “Painfully Free” in which he refers to “dead presidents” as white supremacists, likens poverty to terrorism and questions whether there can be such a thing as a “righteous capitalist.” The story also points out Delgado’s (who is black) frequent use of the word “nigga” on the album, including on a track entitled “Niggas?” that wrestles with the near-ubiquitous the use of the word in hip-hop: “Look like we only goin’ from chains to cuffs /still niggas still locked up on stuff.”
On another track, Delgado raps “Dead presidents can’t represent me, not when most of them believe in white supremacy/like spittin’ on my ancestry.”
Faso’s response was swift. “In recent media reports, I was shocked and surprised to learn that Mr. Delgado authored some very troubling and offensive song lyrics,” said Faso in a statement to Ulster Publishing. “The tone and tenor of his lyrics, as reported, are not consistent with the views of most people in our district, nor do they represent a true reflection of our nation. Mr. Delgado’s lyrics paint an ugly and false picture of America.”
The issue of the lyrics is not new to the campaign. Just four days before the June 26 Democratic primary, which Delgado won, a Twitter account called NY19ForChange, which had apparently just been created, started tweeting about the lyrics. The account called them “disgusting” and argued that they put Delgado in a very difficult position to beat Faso in the general election. “No apology from [Delgado] for using misogynistic lyrics …” a tweet stated. The account has since been deleted.
Despite the fact that the lyrics were a known factor and potential line of attack, none of Delgado’s six fellow Democrats in the primary publicly made an issue of his former hip-hop career.
Delgado was quick to strike back. In an interview, the Schenectady native who moved to Rhinebeck shortly before announcing his candidacy said Faso’s remarks were part of a divisive and race-baiting strategy to paint him as an “outsider” in the largely white, largely rural congressional district.
“He’s feeding into racial biases that could be conscious or subconscious, that’s the unfortunate reality,” said Delgado, who gave up his hip-hop career to attend Harvard law school and go on to a career in corporate law. “A real leader, with integrity, would know better, would be better than that.”
Delgado accused his critics of cherry-picking lyrics from an album that, taken in its entirety, sent a positive message. His lyrics, he said, were part of a long tradition of politically and socially conscious rap and were intended to promote civic awareness and engagement among hip-hop fans. On the anti-Iraq war track “Draped in Flags,” for example, Delgado raps, “Ask the leadership why, objectively criticize that’s what a patriot does in hard times/so we can learn to be better so we can truly epitomize the principles and proselytize while we eulogize lost lives.”
Delgado added that his opponent’s willingness to jump on the Post story without reaching out to him for context or clarification reflected a campaign seeking to avoid real engagement on issues like health care and infrastructure.
“How you define if someone is qualified for this job is by their willingness to do the work, to build for the future,” said Delgado. “[Faso] is the exact opposite of that; he’s an empty suit, a career politician and a puppet.”