The White House was drawn into the controversy Thursday over Jay-Z and Beyonce’s recent trip to Cuba and the rapper’s new song referencing President Barack Obama.
White House press secretary Jay Carney was asked at his daily briefing about the hip-hop mogul’s new track entitled Open Letter, which contains lyrics that seem to imply that Obama himself gave Jay-Z and Beyonce special clearance to travel to the Caribbean nation, which American citizens are restricted from visiting.
A reporter sought Carney’s clarification after referencing these lyrics from Jay-Z’s song: “Obama said, ‘Chill, you gonna get me impeached’/ You don’t need this s*** anyway; chill with me on the beach. I done turned Havana to Atlanta/ Guayabera shirts and bandannas. …Boy from the hood got White House clearance.”
“I guess nothing rhymes with Treasury,” Carney joked. “Because Treasury offers and gives licenses for travel, as you know, and the White House has nothing to do with it.” He added: “I am absolutely saying that the White house from the President on down had nothing to do with anybody’s travel to Cuba that is something that Treasury handles.”
U.S. Treasury officials said Tuesday that the couple’s trip was licensed as an educational exchange after two Cuban-American congressional members expressed concerns about the trip and questioned whether it was properly licensed.
In the song, Jay-Z talks about his distaste for politicians and asserts, “Y’all gon’ learn today.” The rapper also recites: “Want to give me jail time and a fine? Fine, let me commit a real crime.” When asked for further comment, Carney reiterated, “It’s a song. The President did not communicate with Jay-Z over this trip.”
Not passing up a chance to brag, Jay-Z reminds listeners of his part ownership of an NBA basketball team, rapping: “Would’ve brought the Nets to Brooklyn for free/ Except I made millions off it, you f***in’ dweeb/ I still own the building, I’m still keeping my seats/ You buy that bulls***, you better keep your receipts.”