Beyond Authenticity

Great piece

from the

New York Times

earlier this year on Rick Ross' battles to keep it real. Ross slugs it out with the paragon of rap-related authenticity — 50 Cent — on who's the realest. The Times notes,

last summer a photograph surfaced of him from the mid-1990s, graduating from a corrections officer academy. He denied its authenticity — until The Smoking Gun got hold of his Florida Corrections Department personnel file, which included a certificate for perfect attendance.

Yet:

Mr. Ross’s persistence and the fact that though over the last nine months he’s been all but stripped bare, he’s emerged from the fray relatively unscathed, which indicates something much more noteworthy. Impenetrability of image, that old signal of hip-hop authenticity, somehow no longer seems to count.

The piece suggests that perhaps Ross is conforming to a logic that transcends conventional notions of "realness," corresponding to a "deeper" truth about what it means to be who he is. Indeed, his continued success and cred point to a popular acceptance of Ross' person/persona, defined in fact, by a "productive ambiguity" and an acknowledgment that "sometimes it's acceptable to just be playing a role."