Open Letter

Album: Magna Carta Holy Grail (2013)

Songfacts®:

  • This single was penned by Jay-Z in response to various issues that had seen him in the news headlines. Inspired and frustrated, the rapper recorded this song with the help of Timbaland and Swizz Beatz. Swizz told the New York Hip-Hop station Hot 97 that the track began in Jay's office. "I had the portable drum machine with me, then we went down to the 40/40 [club] to watch the game," he said. "Then [Timbaland] came by and was like, 'That beat is crazy.' Next morning, Jay called me with verses."
  • Jay references politicians' complaints about his vacation trip to Cuba with wife Beyoncé for their fifth anniversary (US citizens are banned from travelling to the island as tourists). A number of political sceptics in Congress wondered how two prominent Americans could have traveled to the embargoed country without expressed permission. "They wanna give me jail time and a fine," he raps, "Fine, Let me commit a real crime Obama said, 'Chill you're going to get me impeached. You don't need this s--t Anyway, chill with me on the beach.'"

    The verse forced the White House into damage control and press Secretary Jay Carney was forced to deny that Barack Obama personally gave clearance for Jay and Beyoncé to travel to Cuba: "I guess nothing rhymes with Treasury, because Treasury offers and gives licenses for travel, as you know, and the White House has nothing to do with it," he told Politico reporter Donovan Slack before adding: "I am absolutely saying that the White House, from the president on down, had nothing to do with anybody's personal -- anybody's travel to Cuba. That is something that Treasury handles."
  • Clueless star Stacey Dash criticized Jay-Z and Beyoncé for their trip, suggesting that the couple would have helped "fund a communist regime" during their stay. Jay takes the actress to task in one of his verses by referencing a Bob Dylan song, which accesses somebody of planting stories about him in the press."'Idiot Wind,' the Bob Dylan of rap music," he spits. "You're an idiot baby, you should become a student."
  • Jay also addresses the accusation that he abandoned his local area after selling his shares in the New York borough's NBA team, The Brooklyn Nets. The rap mogul was forced to take this action in order to allow him to represent basketball stars in his new sports management business venture. "I woulda moved the Nets to Brooklyn for free," he spits. "Except I made millions off you fu--ing dweebs. I still own the building, I'm still keeping my seats. You buy that bulls--t, you better keep your receipts."
  • Can't find this on your copy of Magna Carta… Holy Grail? Its included on the vinyl version, which was released by Jack White's Third Man Records. Speaking to New York's Hot 97 DJ Angie Martinez before the release of the disc, Jay explained, "That (song) goes on the vinyl. Jack White, you know, aside from being a brilliant musician, he has this vinyl store so he makes these special edition vinyls, and we're gonna put that on the vinyl."

    "It's in (the form of) a letter and you can play the letter," he continued. "It's amazing. So you open the letter and you can actually play the card, like a vinyl."

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