A one-time feud between hip-hop artists framed a March 8 lecture on the politics of authenticity by Albany Law Professor Anthony Paul Farley.
Observing that rappers’ success can depend on their reputation for criminality, Farley played a song by the late rapper Eazy-E, in which he questioned the gangsta bona fides of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dog:
You ain’t broke a law in your life, yet every time, you rap about the guns and the knives…
Calling this “the politics of authenticity,” Farley noted this phenomenon has emerged amid questions as to whether or not President Barack Obama “is black enough” “is he really American” and “is he really Christian?”
Describing the politics of authenticity as “absurd,” Farley argued that the political candidate with the most genuine hip-hop bona fides was 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.
“Isn’t she just straight up gangsta,” Farley asked, recounting Palin’s emergence from humble beginnings, her flair for bling, her “sketchy” academic career, her identification with pitbulls, her teen daughter’s pregnancy and the narcotics charges brought against the mother of her daughter’s boyfriend.
“We’ve got everything in the gangsta world created and called authentic by Eazy-E existing in real-life in the person of Sarah Palin,” Farley said, contrasting her back story with Obama’s graduation from Harvard Law School as the president of its law review. “Whether we follow the conflict between Eazy-E and Dre and Snoop Dog or the authenticity debate of the 2008 presidential race, we are led to the conclusion that Gov. Sarah Palin, not Barack Obama came very close to being the very first black president.”
Contending society focuses on race to its detriment, Farley said the more important issues to plumb are class and class struggle.
“Class separated from class struggle is something that occludes or hides or blocks and eclipses the stuff that really matters,” he said. “Eazy-E like many in the identity politics game endorsed the very structures that placed him among the wretched of the earth.”
Calling many hip-hop artists “abandoned children,” Farley identified performers from the genre such as Rebel Diaz and Kanye West whose lyrics raise genuine and straightforward issues involving matters of race, class and social justice.
Farley appeared as part of a course and lecture series on hip-hop and the American constitution launched by Professor Donald Tibbs.