Despite winding up on different ends of the hip-hop spectrum, the lives of Jay Z and Pitbull have some major similarities. Both grew up in major cities and were raised by single mothers after their drug-addicted fathers abandoned their families. Both have admitted to selling drugs in their youth, and they haven't shied away from that past in their lyrics. Both are now worldwide musical icons and well-respected businessmen. Both have also started charities to help put inner-city kids through school.
Yet to hear Republicans tell it, one is the embodiment of the Republican dream whom they want to recruit into their party, and the other is just a "gangsta" and a "pimp."
BuzzFeed published a somewhat ridiculous article yesterday in which it asked several Republican movers and shakers -- mostly from Miami-Dade -- whether they'd welcome Pitbull to the party. All of them enthusiastically say they would.
Which is in sharp contrast to the way we're used to hearing so many Republicans talking about rappers. (Remember when current Oscar nominee Common was labeled a "thug" after he was invited to attend a White House poetry reading?)
For example, let's compare the ways these Republicans talk about Pitbull with the ways major Republican figures have recently talked about Jay Z.
Here's Ana Navarro, one of Miami-Dade's most prominent Republican strategists, talking about Pitbill to BuzzFeed:
"Pitbull is well-liked, hugely respected. I see him as policy-oriented. He's an entrepreneur who cares enormously about education and is an active advocate of school choice," Navarro said. "He frequently shows up in schools and gives students motivational and aspirational speeches. I don't see him as a partisan but as a guy who is grateful for the opportunities this country has given him, and as someone who wants to give back every way he can."
And here's Fox News' Sean Hannity suggesting in December that Jay Z (who had recently met with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo) has no place in politics because he used to deal drugs:
"I want to talk about Jay Z, who is now the adviser of Andrew Cuomo ... Why would the governor pick him? We can't do better than a former crack dealer?"
And here's State Sen. Anitere Flores, who had previously presented Pitbull with an honorary degree from Doral Academy, welcoming the former drug dealer into her party:
"Who wouldn't want Pitbull? He can't just get us votes in the 305; he can get us votes worldwide."
And here's former Arkansas governor and past (and possibly future) presidential candidate Mike Huckabee on Jay Z in his recently released book, God, Guns, Grits and Gravy:
"[Beyoncé] is a terrific dancer -- without the explicit moves best left for the privacy of her bedroom. Jay-Z is a very shrewd businessman, but I wonder: Does it occur to him that he is arguably crossing the line from husband to pimp by exploiting his wife as a sex object?"
Here's RNC spokesman Ali Pardo on Pitbull:
"¡Dale! The Republican Party's doors are always open."
And here's Bill O'Reilly speaking last year about ways to positively influence inner-city youth:
"But you have to attack the fundamental disease if you want to cure it. Now I submit to you that you're going to have get people like Jay Z, Kanye West, all of these gangsta rappers to knock it off. That's number one. Knock it off. Listen to me. You gotta get to where they live. They idolize these guys with the hats on backwards, and the terrible rap lyrics, and the drugs and all of that. You gotta get these guys, and I think President Obama can do it, and you gotta get them on TV and the net and they gotta say, 'knock it off.'"
Granted, the Republican party is home to a lot of people with varying views on hip-hop. It's also expected that practically oriented Republicans in South Florida who are desperate for votes would be more careful in their language than men on Fox News who thrive on divisiveness and faux controversy to boost ratings.
Pitbull's lyrical content lately has become much less personal in favor of songs celebrating the vice-heavy life of clubbing all the time, whereas Jay Z hasn't shied away from regularly peppering his songs with social and political messages that may open him to more political criticism.
Yet the difference in tone speaks volumes.
(For the record, asked to clarify his political positions to BuzzFeed, Pit released the following statement: "I'm not here to be part of any political party. I'm here to bring political parties to my party because they can't, they won't, they never will, stop the Pitbull party, Dale!")
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