Jay-Z Boasts of Cuba Trip Amid Republican Outrage

In Jay-Z's new song "Open Letter," he says his five-year anniversary trip to Cuba with wife Beyoncé was cleared by the White House. UPDATED.

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Beyonce at the Saratoga Hotel in Havana next to her husband Jay Z, on April 5, 2013.

Maybe Beyoncé was right, she and her husband Jay-Z are the next Bonnie and Clyde. Amid consternation from Cuban American Republicans, Jay-Z released today “Open Letter,” a song in part about the questionable legality of his fifth wedding anniversary in Havana, Cuba.

“I done turned Havana into Atlanta,” Jay-Z 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.”

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told the press that permission to visit Cuba is granted “at the individual level” by the Treasury Department. When pressed further about Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s trip, he deflected the question again to Treasury.

Jay Z later raps: “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.’”

According to Reuters, Beyoncé and Jay-Z did not meet with Cuban officials, or go to the beach. They did meet with Cuban artists, musicians, and dancers, as well as go to nightclubs with live music and to a children’s theater group.

Three Republican Cuban Americans, Sen. Marco Rubio and Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart have raised an uproar over the trip, which the Treasury Department has said it approved as a part of its cultural learning experience. In a statement Monday, Sen. Rubio said, “U.S. law clearly bans tourism to Cuba by American citizens because it provides money to a cruel, repressive and murderous regime.” “The Obama Administration should explain exactly how trips like these comply with U.S. law and regulations governing travel to Cuba,” he added.

In a letter Tuesday to Rep. Diaz-Balart, the Treasury Dept. confirmed that the trip was legal. “It is our understanding that the travelers in question traveled to Cuba pursuant to an educational exchange trip,” said the Treasury official. It was “organized by a group authorized by OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control) to sponsor and organize programs to promote people-to-people contact in Cuba.”

In “Open Letter” it doesn’t appear that the trip was very educational.

“I’m in Cuba, I love Cubans. This communist talk is so confusing,” raps Jay-Z.

Update: White House Press Secretary Jay Carney today was asked if Jay-Z had “White House clearance” to go to Cuba, as he mentions in “Open Letter.” Carney denied any White House involvement and deferred to the Treasury Department again, replying, “I guess nothing rhymes with Treasury.” There are, of course, many words that rhyme with “Treasury,” including “bakery,” “diary,” “chicory,” “usury,” “trickery,” and “mockery.” I’m sure Jay-Z could even make “Carney” rhyme with “Treasury.”

54 comments
bobadilla0803
bobadilla0803

Who cares about those two crack head washed up singer? Why is our president hanging out with these bad influences? Can take the coke head out of Chicago, but can't take out the coke head out of the man that runs the country.

11Twenty
11Twenty

Okay, so I wasn't going to weigh in on this whole debate but I can't help myself. WHY IN THE HELL do we care that Jay-z and Beyonce went to Cuba?! Can someone please explain to me why this is such a large news story? And please explain whypoliticians are getting involved and WHY the White House Press Secretary even needed to use his limited time or his precious breath to explain this situation? And WHY do people feel the need to get official statements from the Treasury department? As stated, trips to Cuba are totally legal if they are for education purposes and who is to say what the definition of "education" is in this instance. Clearly, Jay-z is a man that grew up in the hood and NEVER in a million years thought he would travel anywhere, let alone Cuba. So if he decided to take a trip to see Havana for himself, and meet musicians there and see children's theater and walk the streets with his freaking wife, who are we to get upset about it? American's are so freaking annoying sometimes. C'mon guys, GET A LIFE!!!!!!

roknsteve
roknsteve

Who cares who visits Cuba but a bunch of old fools?  Beyonce sings real music but Jay-Z?  Using a sample of Sly Stone or James Brown and skat-rapping over it is not music, just primitive nonsense.  What's really funny and stupid is people who call themselves musicians who can't even hum much less play anything.    

zuta2s
zuta2s

@TIME @TIMEPolitics though I don't think it's that big a deal, they need to pay a fine or something for being over there

beatmarx
beatmarx

@TIME @TIMEPolitics Why care that B.& J. Z went 2 Cuba? The Embargo's silly. My husband & I will make it there too, it's on our bucket list.

srejax
srejax

@TIME When is a trip to another country NOT educational? You always learn something. Can't believe we r wasting press secretary time w/ this

Senkwe
Senkwe

@Philani I see what's going on. Black president. Buddies with "gangster" rapper. These negroes are ruining our country etc etc etc.

jmac
jmac

Beyonce has replaced Benghazi on Fox.  What's next?  Bring back Birthers?  

BenKatzen
BenKatzen

"In Open Letter it doesn't appear that the trip was very educational." That is because it is a song. Does he also 5 passports? Probably not.

formerlyjames
formerlyjames

Like the Republicans, I am displeased, but for a different reason.  They don't want anybody to have the right to visit Cuba.  I want everybody to have the right to visit Cuba.  We are also in agreement that there should be no privileged access, such as for rap artists or Cuban American fascists.  They get to go, I get to go.  No restrictions.  It'll happen before the end of Obama's term, I trust. 

JohnWilliams1
JohnWilliams1

With the amount of business this country does with China, why is it that Cuba is subject to all this red tape. It just doesn't make any sense.

reallife
reallife

where is the outrage about the excesses of the 1%, people?  where?  -  LOL 


can you spell  H y p o c r i s y?

Gatorgirl4vr
Gatorgirl4vr

@TIME @TIMEPolitics 'this could get me impeached'? of course, this has Owedrama's hands all over it...it's only illegal if you're a peasant

markntejas
markntejas

Just for being Obama or one of his pandering supporters you get: Nobel Peace prizes; Kennedy Center Honors (David Letterman) and trip to Cuba under the auspices of an education exchange waver that just happens to coincide with your anniversary i.e. fed govt paid anniversary present. Not a bad deal actually

grape_crush
grape_crush

"Jay Z Speaks and the White House Gets Questioned. Obviously."

"Obviously rap songs are on the record recordings of all things factual. If it was rapped about then it happened and needs to be addressed by officials. There’s never any hyperbole or exaggerations. Rap music is the world’s only completely factual art form and I for one am ecstatic that people have finally realized that. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to listen to the factual adventures of Rick Ross and sit in wonder as to how he continues to move so freely even though he’s such a boss and moves inordinate amounts of weight."

londongayle
londongayle

Kudos to Beyonce/JayZ... they are discovering the real Cuba, not the one the Florida politicians would have you believe. I'll travel solo any day in Cuba over the US where 50% are armed and gun happy.  25+ trips to Cuba .. I know what I know..to read the picture painted by Floridians is laughable.. Would they have Cuba return to the mob infested corrupt days of Baptista? 

paulejb
paulejb

How can anyone possibly be outraged at celebutards like Beyoncé, Jay-Z or Dennis Rodman? They are the face of the Obama regime. They put the flounce in the bounce for Obama.

curt3rd
curt3rd

I thought Audio Slave played cuba a few years back.

fitty_three
fitty_three

To the GOP, this is just another case of blah pipple behaving badly.

gysgt213
gysgt213

Whatever happen to this "freedom" the rights is always screaming about?   Would it have made the right happy if Jay-Z and Beyonce showed up in Cuba with guns in hand and insults at the ready?

Livilla
Livilla

I fail to understand why a small conclave of Cuban ex-pats have been allowed to dictate American foreign policy for half a century to the detriment of any form of common sense. One might think they are making money off this ridiculous situation. Anyone care to consider a RICO investigation?

TyPollard
TyPollard

Republicans outraged? I'm shocked and outraged.

Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Small typo Alex Rogers-you forgot to to put quotes around the word "outrage".

S_Deemer
S_Deemer

It would seem that Jay-Z is easily confused. There have been some musical projects in the past, with genuinely positive outcomes, such as Ry Cooder's legendary Buena Vista Social Club. But, unlike Jay-Z, Ry Cooder is a real musician.

collioure
collioure

@jmac 

Benghazi was the "3am phone call."

No one was home at this White House.

A very serious screw-up.

Step11
Step11

Easy there sweetheart, just because your version of a celebrity quit midway though her job to host a failed reality TV series, got dropped from Fox News and wound up losing an election, doesn't mean that you've got some kind of point.


You'll get over it, just like everyone else got over Momma Grizzly and her clan of victim screaming dullards.

grape_crush
grape_crush

@S_Deemer > But, unlike Jay-Z, Ry Cooder is a real musician.

Yeah, the Buena Vista Social Club is the first thing I thought of when the right wing began engaging in their usual overwrought fake outrage over this trip. But regardless of your personal opinion on Jay-Z and Beyonce's musical ability, they're just as legitimate as artists as Ry Cooder is.

srmorris1
srmorris1

@S_Deemer I mean no disrespect when I say this because I totally agree about Ry Cooder and Buena Vista Social Club but... Jay-Z is one of the greatest musicians of a generation and is an even greater performer and entertainer. He may not be your cup of tea and you may not understand hip-hop but to say he is not a real musicianis simply inaccurate and ignorant.

curt3rd
curt3rd

Dont include me in your race baiting

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

@srmorris1 @S_Deemer Count me among the old farts who insist that if you refer to something as music, then it needs to have a discernible melody.....you know, like the FISH cheer!