During Rand Paul’s epic filibuster Marco Rubio made a surprise appearance and quoted “modern-day poet[s]” Whiz Khalifa and Jay-Z in the process.
Rubio has been crafting an image of himself as somebody who likes rap and is trying to convince people that he is young, cool and edgy. He is at the forefront of a party that is trying to engage with young people and brand itself as capable of identifying with minorities. Paul Waldman writes:
That may be particularly true for the Republicans, since their party not only worries about its appeal to young people but wants to make sure it stays relevant in the future. But this can be tricky, especially since, with a few exceptions, the kind of person who becomes a professional politician probably wasn’t the coolest person to begin with. After all, part of being cool is not looking like you’re trying to be cool, and politicians usually look like they’re trying too hard (because they usually are).
His references did little to contribute to what he was trying to say during the filibuster, they seem more like cursory Wikipedia research than an actual passion. His use of the idea of playing hard and working hard didn’t even make very much sense. His hip-hop credential are themselves limited and just scratch the surface. He can throw together a nice comparison of Tupac and Little Wayne but does that really mean much? Alan Pyke writes as a guest poster at Alyssa Rosenberg’s place:
If you think “the only guy that speaks at any sort of depth” is Eminem, you do not listen to enough hiphop. If “Lose Yourself” is your favorite Eminem song, you don’t listen to enough Eminem. And if you’re milking hiphop for credibility while marginalizing its challenges to the kinds of policies and narratives that Republicans run on, you might need to test your listening comprehension, period.
But there’s something worse than poseur bombast afoot if you tell a national men’s magazine that Em’s the only deep or even sort of deep emcee, during a conversation predicated on how cool and rooted and atypical-Republican you are as a person. You’re counting on that magazine being so enthralled by the notion of a Republican who has a passing knowledge of rap that they don’t notice how ignorant and shallow a statement you just made. You’re trusting that your interviewer won’t come back with a question about the potential subtexts of claiming that the only current rapper with rich and abiding lyrical value is the white one. Most of all, you’re manufacturing an image of a conservative capable of communing with the youths, giving future profile writers a ready-made clickbait depiction of you as “Not Your Grandfather’s Republican.”
It’s hard to know who the target audience is for this kind of ostentatious name-checking. Rubio is unlikely to convince die hard hip-hop fans that he is in the know, and he’s also unlikely to convince young people in general that he is doing anything more than trying to attach himself to a part of youth culture. And his base, of course, has no idea who Wiz Khalifa is.
But if he wanted to sign up, say, Immortal Technique, to help Rubio promote immigration reform, I’m sure there wouldn’t be any objection.