03/05/2013 03:30 pm ET Updated May 05, 2013


Dear Mr. Rubio,

I was touched by last week's TMZ feature in which you spoke with wistful nostalgia about 2Pac's legacy while riding the escalator at Reagan National Airport. I was further intrigued when, following up that interview by phone, you dismissed Lil Wayne as part and parcel of a generation of entertainers who lack social consciousness.

It made me curious whether you caught Jon Caramanica's write-up last month in the New York Times, ruminating on the recent mania ginned up by Macklemore's 'Thrift Shop' and the Harlem Shake meme. In case you missed it, the gist is that (once again) hip hop is dead -- or at least, it smells funny.

Caramanica even went as far as to augur the genre's "centerless future" (and between us hip hop heads, let me tell you, Mr. Rubio, it's looking pretty bleak): a bold discourse gridlocked by the vapid drama of "one interloper shaming another." Can you imagine? How like a critic, I thought, to go around manufacturing crisis.

Of course, I realize most of your constituents are probably writing in about more urgent crises than the one supposedly spoiling hip hop -- if not, I'm sure they will soon, what with the sequestration of our state's education budget (defunding 130 schools and 95,000 students), our job search assistance programs (leaving in the lurches some 78,960 unemployed Floridians), our public health programs (amounting to 7,450 unvaccinated children, 4,500 fewer admissions to substance abuse programs, and 35,900 fewer HIV tests); to say nothing of the 31,000 civilian Department of Defense employees facing furlough or the cutbacks in in-state operational spending for the Army, Navy and Air Force (whither our beloved Blue Angels Airshow?). Add to all this the downsizing of Medicare and nutrition assistance programs that deliver meals to senior citizens and I can't help but suggest our 'Sunshine State' license plate be reminted, 'God's Waiting Room.'

If Bob Woodward was correct in his assertion that this measure was a negotiation tactic devised by the President's brain trust, than I'm with you, Mr. Rubio: "The so-called sequester is one of the worst ideas to ever come out of President Obama's White House." [1]

Come to think of it, sequester-the-noun is going to take some getting used to, but I suppose it's as true in politics as it is in hip hop that our language has to be bent and broken time and again in order to stay relevant. Truth be told, in the neologism department, politicians are probably even more frequent offenders than the rappers who gave us such gems as "crunk", "sizzurp" and "blingbling". There was "genocide" in 1944, "homophobia" (1969), "Reaganomics" (1981), "Islamofascism" (2001), then "omnishambles" (and its adorable portmanteau, "Romneyshambles") in 2012. In fact, just last month, I picked up still another coinage from the headlines. Remember the "debt ceiling?" That one was harder for me to wrap my head around since debt doesn't look like any building I've seen before -- except maybe my alma mater.

Which reminds me, in this Intro to Macroeconomics class I took there, I learned that societies go into debt so that their citizens don't have to. But then in 2011, Republicans unearthed a piece of legislative arcana that really did put a ceiling on debt, and that produced a budget crisis that (they hoped) would force the government to cut back its deficit (it didn't). Anyways, not to play the interloper-shame-game here, but it seems to me that blaming the White House for the so-called sequester is a lot like blaming rappers for the n-word: they probably shouldn't use it, but then neither should the rest of us forget where it came from.

When the sequester took effect last Friday, I thought I'd better check in with my senator's Twitter feed. Imagine my surprise!

Now, as a Florida native who's since moved to Harlem, I feel singularly responsible for your query. (The short answer is, for the love of God, anyone but MC Rove). From the standpoint of someone trying to keep it real, as we say, the thing about the Harlem Shake videos trending on YouTube isn't that they misrepresent the real Harlem Shake -- the wack aesthetic meltdown detonated by the beat-drop in the Baauer track bears as little resemblance to the old school's jubilant, syncopated shoulder shrugging as the South Florida Tea Party does to the Boston Tea Party. No, the real beef is that by plagiarizing the name of the original movement (the Harlem Shake, I mean), this new craze threatens to eclipse popular memory by shamelessly flooding the airwaves with its incoherent spin.

As you could guess, your more cynical opponents are likely to read your tongue-in-cheek tweet as some kind of facile attempt to curry favor with the younger generation -- my generation, incidentally. Amusing though it is, I urge you to seize the opportunity! Call your crew, take them out for a round of Shirley Temples at Elephant & Castle and pitch them a publicity tactic that'll win the GOP some badly needed street cred (Never forget: MC Rove). Naturally, you'll want your rendition to keep it as real possible; I trust you'll find that the music video for G. Dep's 2010 single, "Special Delivery" sufficiently demonstrates the genuine article.

While we're on the subject of keeping it real, I was interested in what you had to say about Lil Wayne fancying himself, "the New Pac." As I recall, you said, "The thing about Lil Wayne is that it's all about how much he's made or how much money he's making." I can see where you're coming from, Mr. Rubio, and though I think you may be giving him short shrift, he does seem to be asking for it lately. As you probably know, Lil Wayne is hip hop's wunderkind, par excellence. He joined Birdman's outfit, Cash Money Records (which I'm happy to say relocated to our fair Miami back in 2011) at the age of nine and hit the top of the Billboard chart by the time he was 17. Distinguishing himself from a rash of largely lackluster Lil's -- Bow Wow, Flip, Kim, Romeo, Troy and Zane, among others -- Lil Wayne achieved measurable greatness, with more Billboard Hot 100 entries than any other man in history (his appropriately titled, 'Celebration' squeezed him past Elvis Presley who, it seems, finally has left the building).

Mr. Rubio, respectfully, I think you could cut Weezy some slack: the difficult thing about meteoric rise is that it tends to cause the megastar of the moment to be utterly absorbed by the culture they're supposed to be redefining. After all, one can only be called a savior so many times by the powers that be before it becomes awfully difficult to tell the difference between genius and celebrity, inspiration and careerism, changing the game and towing the party line. That said, perhaps you put it best, "These guys have some message in what they're saying, but I think they're largely entertainers. 2Pac was trying to inform us about what was going on... 2Pac actually grew up. Every year that went by, his music got deeper and more introspective... Lil Wayne isn't putting anything out there like that. And he could -- he obviously has talent -- but that's not the direction he decided to go."

"2Pac lived in a different time... It's just a different time," you mused with clear traces of lament. I'm with you, Mr. Rubio; I couldn't agree more. I mean, remember 1999, when Interscope released your favorite song, 'Killuminati' on Pac's posthumous (and politically pointed) album, Still I Rise? America had a $125.6 billion budget surplus. The Unemployment Rate was 4.2 percent (its lowest point in thirty years). Yes, Senator, 'twas a different time, a miraculous time, even, lest we forget the Florida State Seminoles' undefeated season.

But then in April, there was the shooting at Columbine. Gangster rap took a lot of heat for the massacre, which, in hindsight, seems unfair to levelheaded listeners like you and me. But who else was there to blame? Wayne LaPierre came out days later on behalf of the NRA to signal interest in finally closing the controversial Gun Show Loophole, even going so far as to say, "First, we believe in absolutely gun-free, zero-tolerance, totally safe schools. That means no guns in America's schools, period."Twelve years later, after Adam Lanza gunned down more than twice the number of people who died in Columbine at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Wayne LaPierre was once again trotted out to meet the press, this time with a curious change of heart: "Politicians pass laws for gun-free school zones. They issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them. And in so doing, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are their safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk."

Of course, not everything has changed since 1999. For one thing, the Gun Show Loophole remains wide open (you may recall opposing the President's plan to close it last month).

I was excited when you singled out 'Dear Mama' in interview as, "one of the most influential songs ever." It's one of my favorites, too. I remember I used to walk home from middle school, past gated communities, country clubs and golf courses, all the while rapping along,

Over the years we was poorer than the other little kids

And even though we had different daddies, the same drama

When things went wrong we'd blame mama

I reminisce on the stress I caused, it was hell

Hugging my mama from a jail cell

I (as I'm sure you must) find it absurd, telling and frankly marvelous that my walkman could tune me -- a white, pubescent, upper-middle class kid from suburban West Palm Beach - in to the anguish of incarceration or the untold adversities dogging single mothers trying to raise their children in America's ghettos. So while it pleased me to hear you say 'Dear Mama' is being "preserved for posterity" in the Library of Congress, I don't believe great hip hop can or should be preserved, so to speak, like a Stradivarius or The Federalist Papers. I think you'd agree, hip hop's got to be played; it's got to be listened to.

Now bear with me, Mr. Rubio, but can you imagine what would happen if the "posterity" -- let's say a freshman senator -- strolled through the Library of Congress and checked out 'Dear Mama' (or the rest of Me Against the World, for that matter)? Sincerely, Mr. Rubio, I'm curious how you think it would make her feel about, say, food stamps? [2] What about legislation that prevents and prosecutes domestic abuse, assault and rape? Would she vote against it? [3] Would she vote against it twice?[4]

I can't say for sure, but as the great critic Stanley Crouch wrote, "All of us are made up of the stories that we listen to, the ones we disagree with and the ones we agree with." That, right there, is what hip hop's all about. Fans like you and me understand that. Don't we, Mr. Rubio?

[1] Rubio, Marco. "Obama's False Choice On The Sequester." Fighting for Florida (blog), February 26, 2013.

[2] Senate Amendment 2172 -- "Rescinds Bonuses to States for Administering Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)." Key Vote: June 19, 2012. Senator Marco Rubio voted 'Yea.'

Senate Amendment 2174 -- "Limits Eligibility for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)." Key Vote: June 19, 2012. Senator Marco Rubio voted 'Yea.'

[3] Senate Bill 1925 -- "Reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act." Key Vote: April 26, 2012. Senator Marco Rubio voted 'Nay.'

[4] Senate Bill 47 -- "Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013." Key Vote: February 12, 2013. Senator Marco Rubio voted 'Nay."