Jay-Z Blasts His Republican Critics

Elahe Izadi
National Journal

If congressional Republicans criticizing Jay-Z for his recent trip to Cuba were expecting a letter in response, they got one. 

In a song released Thursday morning titled "Open Letter," Jay-Z raps about the trip that he and wife Beyonce took to Cuba that has spurred outrage from several Republican lawmakers. "Wanna give me jail time and a fine/Fine, let me commit a real crime," he rhymes.

Jay-Z raps that he has "done turned Havana into Atlanta" and waxes philosophical on U.S. relations with communist nations. "I'm in Cuba, I love Cubans/This communist talk is so confusing/When it's from China, the very mic that I'm using."

Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, both Florida Republicans, have asked the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to explain whether the duo's trip was legal. Americans are barred from tourist activity in Cuba and can only go to the communist country if they meet strict requirements, such as traveling for academic or journalistic purposes.

“Despite the clear prohibition against tourism in Cuba, numerous press reports described the couple’s trip as tourism, and the Castro regime touted it as such in its propaganda," the lawmakers wrote. "These restrictions are in place because the Cuban dictatorship is one of four U.S.-designated state sponsors of terrorism with one of the world’s most egregious human-rights records. Cuba’s tourism industry is wholly state-controlled; therefore, U.S. dollars spent on Cuban tourism directly fund the machinery of oppression that brutally represses the Cuban people."

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.--who has quoted Jay-Z as a "modern-day poet" on the Senate floor--has also expressed outrage at the trip.

Jay-Z notes that he's "politicians never did sh-- for me/Except lie to me, distort history," and he calls himself a "boy from the hood but got White House clearance." The Republican National Committee sent an e-mail on Thursday asking about that line in particular. "Interesting that Jay-Z affirms in his new rap that he received White House clearance. Any chance Jay Carney can clear up this confusion?" But take a listen to the song, and it's fairly clear that particular rhyme isn't about the Cuba trip--it's widely known that Jay-Z and Beyonce are close to the Obamas, and the song touches on a number of other topics.

The song played on repeat for hours on a popular New York City radio station on Thursday. You can listen below (but you probably want to use headphones, as some lyrics are NSFW).