Jay-Z has released a diss track … on two congress-critters sweating him over a state-approved trip to Cuba. The first lines?
“I done turned Havana to Atlanta / Guayabera shirts and bandanas”
As in, Havana is a tourist destination now where I shop like a capitalist for local stuff.
Florida GOP lawmakers Sen. Marco Rubio and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have criticized Jay-Z and his wife Beyonce for making the trip in apparent violation of sanctions, and are calling for an investigation. Jay-Z’s song responds to that criticism.
The song itself is a masterwork of lyricism and political commentary that appears to have been thrown together in an afternoon in a fit of pique. He notes that communist China is both unsanctioned and one of America’s largest trade partners, but Cuba remains theoretically off-limits. Those limits only exist of course for people without real means. The doors are open if you’ve got the cash for a Treasury department pass and can fly through a third country.
The White House pushed back this morning against the suggestion that President Obama had anything to do with approving the trip — the line “boy from the hood but got White House clearance” drawing attention. Jay-Z thrives on the use of double meaning in lyrics; he’s saying he had government permission, but also that he’s close enough to the President to visit the Oval Office.
The track calls attention to the ridiculousness of accusing a guy like him — a millionaire poster child for modern capitalism — of supporting communism. “Got an onion from Universal, read it and weep / Would’ve brought the Nets to Brooklyn for free / Except I made millions off it, you f–kin’ dweeb.” An onion is slang for a brick of cocaine, with the double meaning of his record company paying him millions.
The “onion” double meaning has a deeper layer as well. In one line, Jay-Z says that if they’re going to consider sentencing him to jail and a fine, he should commit a real crime instead, like flooding the streets with cocaine. Jay-Z has said he was briefly a juvenile crack cocaine dealer before turning to music, and his success is a testament to the redemptive power of both music and entrepreneurial industry. Jay-Z is arguing that a hypocritical political assault on his flamboyant lifestyle by supposed defenders of the free market suggests that his detractors in Congress would prefer people like him to remain poor criminals instead.
Jay-Z redeems the art form, again.
The track can be heard on Soundcloud.