Rapper and entertainment industry mogul Jay-Z responded Thursday with a forceful rejection of the criticism he’s received from South Florida politicians over his visit to Cuba last week with his wife Beyoncé.
And the couple received support from a Broward County Commissioner.
In a new music track, “Open Letter” filled with words that can’t be printed here, Jay-Z raps about the trip to Cuba. “I’m in Cuba, I love Cubans. This communist talk is so confusing,” Jay-Z raps. The music is online; it was transcribed by the political news site Politico.
“I done turned Havana into Atlanta,” he raps. “Boy from the hood, I got White House clearance… Politicians never did s--- for me except lie to me, distort history… They wanna give me jail time and a fine. Fine, let me commit a real crime….
“Hear the freedom in my speech… Obama said, ‘Chill you gonna get me impeached. You don’t need this s--- anyway, chill with me on the beach.’ ”
You can listen to Jay-Z's new track here.
WARNING: EXPLICIT LYRICS
The line “Boy from the hood, I got White House clearance” suggested President Barack Obama was OK with the trip, something Press Secretary Jay Carney disputed in his daily briefing Thursday
Here’s the back and forth:
Q Thanks, Jay. Returning to Beyoncé and Jay-Z -- Jay-Z released a rap today. I know the other day you said that Treasury was the one that cleared their trip. He suggested that he got White House clearance and that he personally spoke with the President. I’ll just quote: “I turned Havana into Atlanta/ Boy from the hood got White House clearance/ Obama said, ‘Chill, you gonna get me impeached’/ You don’t need this [expletive] anyway/ Chill with me on the beach.” (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: I guess nothing rhymes with Treasury. (Laughter.) Because Treasury offers and gives licenses for travel, as you know, and the White House has nothing to do with it.
Q So are you saying that he did not -- the President did not have a conversation with Jay-Z?
MR. CARNEY: I am absolutely saying that the White House, from the President on down, had nothing to do with anybody’s personal -- anybody’s travel to Cuba. That is something that Treasury handles.
Q You can’t rhyme that? (Laughter.)
MR. CARNEY: OFAC, Treasury -- these are tough words to rhyme.
Q Did he communicate with --
MR. CARNEY: It’s a song, Donovan. The President did not communicate with Jay-Z over this trip.
The controversy involves Beyoncé Knowles-Carter — who sang at Obama’s inauguration and the Super Bowl this year and was named most beautiful woman in the world last year by People magazine — and Shawn Carter, her rap mogul husband who goes by the stage name Jay-Z.
They traveled to the island nation to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. Big crowds greeted them in the Cuban capital as they strolled hand in hand through the city and posed for pictures — even though the long-standing U.S. trade embargo against Cuba prevents most Americans from traveling to the island without a license granted by the U.S. government. The Obama administration allows “people to people” travel to Cuba for academic, religious or cultural programs.
The Treasury Department said the couple traveled to Cuba “pursuant to an educational exchange trip” organized by an authorized company. U.S. law prohibits financial transactions for tourist activities in Cuba to prevent funding of the government, which controls the industry. The Treasury permits visits for educational reasons.
County Commissioner Stacy Ritter, who chaired Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign in Broward, cheered the Treasury Department’s reaction.
“Good for the Obama Admin. refusing to bite on the Beyoncé/JayZ non-issue of Cuba travel. Such a non issue unlike sequester – a real problem,” Ritter wrote in the first of three Twitter comments Thursday morning.
“US foreign policy re:Cuba is Einstein's def of insanity-doing same thing over & over expecting different result,” Ritter said. “So we trade with/travel to Vietnam & China (used to do same w/ former Soviets) but can't with Cuba? I guess all communism isn't equal.”
Their trip drew criticism over the weekend from U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart, the Cuban-American Republicans who represent parts of Miami-Dade County. (Diaz-Balart also represents part of southwest Broward.) U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., joined in the criticism.
So did U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Weston, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, who said in an interview she was “absolutely uncomfortable” by travel to Cuba by Jay-Z, Beyoncé and others.
Wasserman Schultz, whose district includes part of Miami-Dade County is close to Diaz-Balart and Ros-Lehtinen.
Ros-Lehtinen said the trip was inexcusable.
“If the tourist activities undertaken by Beyoncé and Jay-Z in Cuba are classified as an educational-exchange trip, then it is clear that the Obama administration is not serious about denying the Castro regime an economic lifeline that U.S. tourism will extend to it,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.
“That was a wedding-anniversary vacation that was not even disguised as a cultural program,” the lawmaker said yesterday in a response to the Treasury’s letter and posted on her website. “As more human-rights activists engage in hunger strikes, I don’t think they will see any evidence of how this scam endeavor will help them become independent of the regime.”
Reuters contributed to this report.Copyright © 2015, South Florida