Most people know the story by now:
Beyoncé and Jay-Z went to Cuba to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary, only to be lambasted by Florida politicians for materially supporting the “oppressive” regime housed in Havana. The Treasury Department got involved, eventually confirming that the couple indeed traveled within Washington’s strict “no tourism” parameters affected in 1959.
No harm, no foul? You wish: for one thing, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is still mad, calling the pair “hypocritical” for “delivering hard currency to a tyrannical regime” that “turns around and uses that to oppress its people.” The senator adds: “They didn't go down there and meet with some of the people that are actually in trouble today,” like a rapper Rubio claims is hunger striking in response to political repression. Point taken. But talk about the pot calling the kettle black, isn’t this the guy who’s unabashed endorsement of free market capitalism ignores the unspeakable atrocities that system has allowed American and European governments to justify throughout world history, effectively creating the Global South and its discontents? Take a seat, Marco.
To top it off, Jay-Z got on some Beyoncé shit and fired back at the haters with his “Open Letter” music single. After briefly bragging about how awesome he is, Jay spits: “Wanna give me jail time and a fine? Fine, let me commit a real crime: I might buy a kilo for Chief Keef. Out of spite, I just might flood these streets.” If given the option, I venture most would prefer a Jay-Z honeymoon in Havana to a massive Jay-Z crack sale, but the point about his trip’s legal hypocrisies is valid. Is his material support of a repressive Cuban regime any worse than America’s material relationship with China, for instance?
It’s all quite confusing: Jay-Z, who presents himself as the ultimate capitalist in his music, criticizing the hypocrisies of American capitalism? I think I speak for us all when I say we need someone to deeply interrogate this bizarre situation. Someone with a sharp and incisive political mind.
We need Pitbull.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia
Perhaps hoping to edify the American public with his condensed breakdown of Cuban history, the Miami-born rapper recently released his own “Open Letter.” Filled with non-rhyming couplets and decontextualized references to Scarface, Meyer Lansky, Mariel Harbor, the Bay of Pigs invasion, and the Cuban Missile Crisis, Pitbull’s single tonally divorces itself from Jay-Z’s critique and morphs into a sober but grateful celebration of American Dream mythology and the “freedom[s]” they enable: “I love the freedom that’s been given to us … It’s the freedom that we ride for, it’s the freedom that we die for. C-U-B-A: Hope to see you free one day.”
The only remotely interesting question Pitbull asks is: “Would they have messed with Mr. Carter if he was white?” (maybe, maybe not), but even this gets lost in the confusing jumble that marks the rest of the song. In the end, the rapper’s messages seem to be: Cuba is oppressed but America is free, people need to learn Cuban history but politicians refuse to discuss the issue, and half of Cuban-American families have sold drugs but happy anniversary Jay-Z. It’s hard to decipher what Pitbull was aiming for, but it’s safe to say that, whatever it was, he could have done it better.