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Pitbull and Common Ride for Jay-Z on ‘Open Letter’ Remakes

Pitbull actually comes away with the most quotable lyric

“Would they have messed with Mr. Carter if he was white?” That’s been an unspoken question hanging in the air ever since a couple of U.S. lawmakers from Florida suddenly showed an interest in human rights when it might embarrass Jay-Z and Beyoncé — and by extension President Obama. Jay-Z left the question hanging but turned up the temperature with his magnificent, Blood on the Tracks-repping “Open Letter.” His withering response to criticisms of a trip he and his wife took to Cuba wound up requiring a statement from the Obama administration.

Now Pitbull and Common have each separately added their own rhymes to Jay-Z’s original track. And believe it or not, it’s Pitbull who offered the strident rhetorical question quoted above. The Miami rapper, who like most constituents of Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla) is of Cuban descent, shared a full, Spanish-sprinkled alternate version of the Swizz Beatz- and Timbaland-produced track. On it, he raspily assures Jay-Z and Beyoncé their Cuba visit was okay with him: “Happy fifth-year anniversary / Jay and B don’t worry it’s on me.”

Common added a verse to Jay’s original, and as you might expect it’s subtler and more allusive than Pitbull’s, pulling in Assata Shakur, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and Kevin Ware. Common also points to the time he, of all rappers, was the subject of a FOX News-led assault over ties to Obama. “They say I’m too black light like it’s lights out,” he reflects matter-of-factly, implicitly raising the same question as Pitbull.

The answer is is less clear: Remember, the Clintons were accused of murder and of hanging crack pipes on the White House Christmas tree, so politics was ugly before the first hip-hop president. But if the Cuba kerfuffle is causing rappers — even good-natured Alaskan exile Pitbull — to step up their game, then it’s already more constructive than “Accidental Racist.”