Recently, Jay-Z dropped a new track entitled Open Letter. In it, Hova fired back at his critics over his sale of his ownership percentage in the Brooklyn Nets and more importantly, his recent trip to Cuba. Discussions about hip-hop lyrics are usually the purview of sites such as hiphopwired.com and MTV.com. You know, is it a hot track or not, does Jay-Z still have it, what this means for the upcoming album etc. However, never in my life did I think White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney would be getting questions parsing the specific lyrics of Jay-Z song.
Donovan Slack, the reporter who asked the question by first quoting the song is a reporter from Politico which makes perfect sense. Of course the reporter who perpetrated this ridiculousness upon the White House and America is a hack from Politico. If you’re trying to remember thought-provoking, fair-minded or hard-hitting journalism from Politico, good luck. They concentrate more on Entertainment Tonight style reporting like whether Obama is likable enough. But back to Ms. Slack:
“I done turned Havana to Atlanta,” Slack began, quoting from the new song “Open Letter” released this morning, “Boy from the hood but got White House clearance. Obama said ‘chill, you gonna get me impeached.’ But you don’t need this expletive anyway. Chill with me on the beach.”
I’m going to let Ms. Slack in on a little secret. Tracks from unreleased hip-hop albums from the RocNation label are not the same as sworn testimony given before a Congressional Committee. Jesus, I know when Jay drops a new song, the streets are figuratively on fire but it’s not supposed to put the White House briefing room in a tizzy. Also I used the phrase “figuratively on fire” because I’m slightly worried you’ll read this and then frantically call the fire department. Ms. Slack, you do understand that forms of art typically use exaggeration, embellishment, and outright lies to make a point, to make a rhyme, to make a song right? It’s called poetic license. The only thing that saves this entire situation is not only did Jay Carney dismiss her with a chuckle, but everyone one else in the room laughed at her as well. Because that. Is. Ridiculous.
But this may actually bring up a new career for Ms. Slack. She should plumb the depths of entertainment and then ask questions of government officials based on her research. I’ll even help her out. Here’s a little song performed by the man in black himself, Mr. Johnny Cash:
When I was just a baby,
My Mama told me, “Son,
Always be a good boy,
Don’t ever play with guns,”
But I shot a man in Reno,
Just to watch him die,
When I hear that whistle blowin’,
I hang my head and cry.
Let’s imagine how this could play out in a hard-hitting interview with current Reno Chief of Police Steven Pitts:
Slack: Chief Pitts, I know Johnny Cash is dead but if you read the lyrics to Fulsome Prison Blues, it’s clear that he’s killed at least one man in cold blood. Have any cold cases in Reno been linked to Mr.Cash?
Reno Chief of Police Stephen Pitts: You know that’s just a song right?
But let’s move back to the man of the hour, Jay-Z. Here’s a lyric from his first album:
I had near brushes, not to mention three shots
close range, never touched me, divine intervention
Slack: Father Rosica, as you can see from the lyrics to Jay-Z’s Dead Presidents II, three bullets fired at close range missed Jay-Z. He attributes this to a miracle. How have the Vatican’s investigation into this miracle been progressing? Also a similar incident happened to Jules and Vincent in Pulp Fiction. Any truth the rumor that these miracles are linked?
Vatican Press Officer Father Rosica: ???
Or you can try to be a better reporter. Now if you want to try to parse rap lyrics for their deeper meaning during a White House Press briefing, you picked the wrong ones. Here’s Jay-Z again in Open Letter raising an interesting question:
This communist talk is so confusing
When it’s from China, the very mic that I’m using
This brings up the issue of why we have a trade embargo with Cuba in the first place. Clearly the United States doesn’t have a problem with communists (China is our biggest trade partner). Nor do we have a problem with dictators (Hosni Mubarack of Egypt, Saddam Hussein, Mommar Quadaffi ect). Being that we don’t have a problem with different forms of government or leaders who abuse their people in general, does it make sense to continue to single out Cuba in this way? Of course those are the types of questions with full contextualization usually missing from Politico.
I don’t think this is what they meant when they say hip-hop is mainstream now. At least it shouldn’t be. What a sorry display.