Jay-Z put his homeboy Barack Obama between a rock and a hard place with his new track, “Open Letter,” in which he implies the president gave him permission to visit Cuba. Now the song’s producer reveals what happened behind the scenes.
Swizz Beats and Timbaland produced the single that serves as an open letter from Hova to critics of his recent anniversary trip with Beyonce to Havana — a move that was sanctioned by the U.S. government, despite initial reports the couple was under investigation for the possibly illegal trip.
Swizz spoke to New York’s Hot 97 radio station and explained how the song came about. “I had the portable drum machine with me, then we went down to the 40/40 to watch the game,” says Swizz. “Then [Timbaland] came by and was like, ‘That beat is crazy.’ Next morning, Jay called me with verses.” The 40/40 Club is a New York sports bar and lounge owned by Jay-Z.
There is a longstanding U.S. embargo against travel to Cuba unless it is for news reporting purposes or part of a cultural exchange mission. Jay-Z and Beyonce’s trip was sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department as part of a “people-to-people” cultural visit. On “Open Letter,” Jay raps, “Obama said, ‘Chill you gonna get me impeached.’ You don’t need this s*** anyway, chill with me on the beach.” But White House press secretary Jay Carney denies Obama had anything to do with the trip. “It’s a song,” says Carney. “The president’s not communicating with Jay-Z over this trip.”
Jay-Z doesn’t stop at the Cuba controversy in his “Open Letter.” He also lashes out at reports his plans to sell his share in the Brooklyn Nets are to finance a sports agency. “I woulda moved the Nets to Brooklyn for free, except I made millions off you f***ing dweebs,” Jay raps. “I still own the building, I’m still keeping my seats. You buy that bulls***, you better keep your receipts.”
For clarification, Jay owns one-fifth of Barclays Center, the Nets’ home venue. He has also installed a 40/40 Club location there, and the venue houses outlets for several other brands in which he Jay a financial stake. The real reason he is bowing out of team ownership is likely due to league restrictions that conflict with his plans for sports management.
Now the question remains: Will Obama still pal around with Jay-Z and Beyonce after getting thrown under the bus like that?