American gangster in Cuba

Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s anniversary trip to Cuba received critique from a prominent Republican.

by Hemang Sharma


As anyone in the rap game will tell you, it is never wise to start a beef with Jay-Z, especially when he is on a vacation. If only U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and many other conservative politicians gave rap a chance.

Jay-Z visited the forbidden land of Cuba with his wife, Beyoncé, to celebrate their wedding anniversary after attaining proper clearance from the U.S. Department of Treasury.

Rubio, a conservative with Cuban roots, chose to make a political point of the oppression of the Cuban people by the Communist regime and expressed his distaste of the rapper’s unwillingness to go about helping the people of Cuba. He called out the rapper, saying he needs to “get informed.”

So Jay-Z did what any rapper would do, even when on a vacation: He dropped a rhyme to address the haters. In an open letter, Jay-Z requested people to leave him alone until he had committed a real crime, which he hadn’t because he and his wife entered Cuba legally.

Jay-Z’s latest rap claims he got the clearance to visit Cuba straight from President Barack Obama. Now, we all know rappers like to exaggerate about their money, power and sexual prowess. Knowing his friendship with Obama, the ignorant people of the masses — by which I mean Rubio — continued to demand answers from the administration, despite the legal answer, that the president doesn’t and didn’t have anything to do with anyone’s visit to Cuba.

My question is, why can’t a celebrity couple be allowed to enjoy their time without making them pawns in a political discourse? I understand Rubio has an issue in Cuba and would want celebrities to draw attention to a personal and national topic, but not every celebrity wants to be political at every moment of their life, neither should they be.

Everyone deserves a peaceful vacation, and if you’re a celebrity and a hip-hop legend, you’re probably used to obsessive attention in your native country. Lecturing him about the oppression, the suffering and the poverty isn’t always the prerogative of the ones in the limelight, especially on an anniversary. There are certain restrictions that the U.S. government puts on for traveling to a communist country, but Jay-Z’s entourage of people would have worked around them, as they are paid to do.

The bigger concern here is that why, in 2013, the U.S. still forbids its people from visiting Cuba, unless it is for an educational visit. Why can’t we have open tourism that allows our citizens to visit the beaches of Santiago? The Cold War feelings toward communism seem to linger. The U.S. has updated its relations toward communist countries, yet Cuba remains a ghost-like victim to past tensions.

Rubio said trips like these fund “tyrannical regimes.” If one wanted to find a group that has funded questionable international groups, we always have the U.S. government as an example. Rather than spur open dialogue on the issues of the Cuba-U.S. relationship, these accusations focus on vilifying celebrities and acute problems.

The problem with critiques like the one offered by Rubio is that instead of using his political will and charm in the Senate to create real change in ways that the U.S. can help Cuba, it chooses to trivialize the plight of the very Cuban people they claim to help.

Mark Sawyer, a University of California-Los Angeles political science professor who visited Cuba, argues that it is a good thing that celebrities like Jay-Z visit Cuba because it shows the people the possibilities of America. Many professors, students and other people get to visit Cuba, and so should everyone with sufficient funds and a security clearance.