5 Ways Marco Rubio Is Not Your Grandfather’s Republican

Elahe Izadi
February 6, 2013

For some, the world can be viewed in two ways: You’re either a Tupac fan, or you’re a Biggie fan. Marco Rubio is a Tupac fan.

The junior Republican senator from Florida is a presidential prospect who is delivering the GOP response to President Obama’s State of the Union address next Tuesday. And he can talk at length about the intricacies of West Coast-versus-East Coast rap, giving hope to a Republican Party plagued by its image of being full of old white men. Here’s a lawmaker who is not only young, but who can also connect casually and naturally with young people. That skill was on display Tuesday night at BuzzFeed Brews interview series, where he deftly handled personal questions with policy ones.

It’s that kind of personability that contributed to the enthusiasm surrounding Obama during his 2008 victory. (Obama, for what it’s worth, is an East Coast Jay-Z fan). Rubio projects a similar appeal. Here's why he could help the GOP appeal to young voters, if he runs for president in 2016:

The man knows his hip-hop.

Your average senator probably doesn’t know much about Afrika Bambataa, can't talk about the rise of Public Enemy in the 1980s, or break down the history of '90s gangsta rap. Rubio can, and more; he’ll tell you what he thinks about Nicki Minaj and how early '90s rappers in California were like journalists who reported on the conditions in their communities. His favorite rap songs are "Straight Outta Compton" by N.W.A., "Killuminati" by Tupac, and Eminem's "Lose Yourself."

He had a major life revelation at a South Beach foam party.

Like so many of his contemporaries, a foam party spurred Rubio to reflect on the state of his life. (If you’ve never been to a foam party, trust that it'll cause you to question some of your life choices.)

In his memoir, Rubio recounts how his now-wife Jeanette told him she would break up with him if he went to a foam party. He went anyway, and Jeanette buzzed him on his beeper. “As I contemplated my predicament, I looked down at my shoes. They were perfectly white. They had been black when I arrived.... Maybe because I took it as a sign the life I was leading was phony and unsustainable or just that I had suddenly found myself wearing white shoes, a South Beach fashion faux pas, I left the club and found the nearest pay phone.”

He got into a vodka-shot competition and threw up in front of important people.

Look, many young adults have been there before: Getting wasted at a work function and subsequently had trouble holding their liquor down. Rubio wrote in his memoir that he is a modest drinker, but he did get into a vodka-shot competition on a flight home from a 1996 Bob Dole campaign event. He ended up vomiting in front of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.

His Spotify playlist is eclectic.

Take a look for yourself. Rubio’s Spotify rotation includes some classics like The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” along with more contemporary songs like Flo Rida’s “Good Feeling.” There are some Christian rock songs to boot, but don’t come looking for country music. Do come looking for Carlos Vives.

He likes the same movies as college freshmen.

Wedding Crashers, The Godfather and Pulp Fiction are his favorite movies. Notably absent: historical dramas or anything made before the 1970s.

CORRECTION: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was a member of Congress when Rubio threw up in front of her, not a Republican operative.