In a bizarre demonstration of how much impact celebrities have on the mass media and even politics, President Barack Obama recently commented about Jay-Z’s diss track “Open Letter,” in which he took aim at Obama for the flack he and his wife Beyonce received after their recent vacation to Havana, Cuba.
“I wasn’t familiar that they were taking the trip,” the president says in an interview with Today’s Savannah Guthrie that was conducted Monday before the Boston Marathon bombings and aired Wednesday on the NBC morning show.
In “Open Letter,” Jay-Z implies Obama reprimanded him directly for touring Havana: “Obama said ‘Chill you’re going to get me impeached’/ You don’t need this sh—anyway, chill with me on the beach.”
“My understanding is I think they went through a group that organizes these educational trips down to Cuba. You know, this is not something the White House was involved with. We’ve got better things to do,” Obama said.
Under current U.S policy, Americans can only visit Cuba as part of an academic or educational program and they must receive a license to do so from the U.S. Treasury Department of Foreign Assets Control. Jay-Z and Beyonce’s visit to Cuba was approved by the Treasury as an educational and cultural exchange, not a relaxing getaway. When the couple returned with photos of a dream beach vacation they were attacked by Florida conservative Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Dian-Balart, who issued angry complaint letters.
I an interview with ABC News’ “This Week,” Rubio remarked, “I won’t rap it, but I’ll say, first of all, I think Jay-Z needs to get informed. The travel policies need to be tightened because they are being abused. These are tourist trips, and what they are doing is providing hard currency and funding so that a tyrannical regime can maintain its grip on the island of Cuba.”
In “Open Letter” Jay-Z also fired back at Rubio and his constituents saying, “They wanna give me jail time and a fine — Fine, let me commit a real crime.”
“Open Letter” was produced by Swizz Beatz and Timbaland. In an interview with New York’s Hot 97, Swizz said they started the song in Jay-Z’s office. “I had the portable drum machine with me, then we went down to the 40/40 [club] to watch the game,” he said. “Then [Timbaland] came by and was like, ‘That beat is crazy.’ Next morning, Jay called me with verses.”