2:31 p.m. November 20, 2012

Marco Rubio’s Rap Preferences: A Lyrical Analysis

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is a Tea Party favorite, a Cuban-American, and a strong contender to be the 2016 Republican presidential nominee. He’s also a rap fan. In an interview with GQ , he says his three favorite rap songs are N.W.A.’s "Straight Outta Compton,” Tupac’s "Killuminati," and Eminem's "Lose Yourself.”

What do these songs tell us about the man who could be our next president?

Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A.

This song is pure old-school gangsta braggadocio. Although Rubio speaks to GQ about the “depth” of Eminem and the “poetry” of Tupac, “Straight Outta Compton” doesn’t offer much in the way of subtlety. Here’s Ice Cube in the first verse:

When I'm called off, I got a sawed off Squeeze the trigger and bodies are hauled off You too, boy, if ya fuck with me The police are gonna hafta come and get me Off yo ass, that's how I'm goin’ out For the punk motherfuckers that's showin’ out Niggas start to mumble, they wanna rumble Mix ‘em and cook ‘em in a pot like gumbo

Released when Rubio was in high school, “Compton” makes sense as a swaggering anthem for a kid who would attend college on a football scholarship. That Rubio still considers it a favorite song may indicate an abnormally swollen ego – an essential trait for any would-be presidential candidate.

Rubio’s answer also displays another essential political trait: the avoidance of N.W.A.’s “Fuck Tha Police.”

Killuminati by 2Pac + Outlawz

In addition to violently boasting that he’s “‘bout to show you motherfuckers how it feel, to drop a body,” Tupac spits lyrics that align well with Rubio’s political career. Starting off as a city commissioner in West Miami, Rubio won his Florida House seat in a special election soon after this song’s album was released. Perhaps the newly-elected state representative felt poetic resonance with these words:

Labeled a mark soon as we start, it was hard to quit We started out drinkin’ 40's, moved to harder shit God damn now I'm a grown man, I follow no man Nigga got my own plan, and it's called Killuminati

In 2009, Rubio moved on to the even harder shit of a long-shot US Senate campaign. If and when he runs for president, the shit will get harder still.

Once again, it’s instructive to note the Tupac songs Rubio doesn’t name. For instance, “Changes” references a black president that “seems heaven-sent.” And “Keep Ya Head Up” contains lyrics that would be awkward at pro-life rallies:

I think it’s time to kill for our women Time to heal our women, be real to our women And if we don't we'll have a race of babies That will hate the ladies, that make the babies And since a man can't make one He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one

Lose Yourself by Eminem

Rubio’s choice here is safe and mainstream. “Lose Yourself” won an Academy Award and was featured in a Chrysler Super Bowl commercial. Its story of struggle is universally relatable – Rubio tells GQ that Eminem’s message of struggle is the reason he likes his music. Still, it’s easy to see how an ambitious senator almost perfectly positioned to become president would find these words especially meaningful at this moment:

Look, if you had one shot, or one opportunity To seize everything you ever wanted in one moment Would you capture it? Or just let it slip?

I can see the 2016 campaign ads now. Marco Rubio: Success is his only motherfuckin’ option.

Back channel chatter

There is a scribble about this dispatch in the backroom, with four contributors.