President Obama‘s relationship to pop culture is simple: He uses it to to disarm the public and reach beyond the politicians and otherwise Very Important People sitting before him. Every nod to rap still feels as revelatory as his 2008 Democratic primary speech and reference to Jay-Z‘s “Dirt Off Your Shoulders“; it says that he still sees minorities, youth and other overlooked sectors of the population.
Now five years later, at Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, President Obama showed that pop-friendly charm offensive — or, political campaign used to win supporters — hasn’t changed. This year, he moved on from referencing Young Jeezy‘s “My President Is Black” to DJ Khaled‘s “All I Do Is Win.” (“How do you like my new entrance music?” he asked, to an otherwise quiet crowd.) He also addressed Jay-Z and Beyonce‘s recent, controversial trip to Cuba, and addressed the hip-hop royal couple in a way that no other politician would have.
“So yes, maybe I have lost a step, but some things are out of my control — for example, this whole controversy about Jay-Z going to Cuba. It’s unbelievable. I’ve got 99 problems but now Jay-Z is one,” Obama said, before he paused. “That’s another rap reference, by the way.” But while rap prides itself in keeping it real, President Obama turned to a completely different genre to talk about, well, how he doesn’t win, win, win no matter what.
“My charm offensive has helped me learn some interesting things about what’s going on in Congress — turns out, absolutely nothing,” he says. “But the point of my charm offensive is simple: We need to make progress on some important issues. Take the sequester. Republicans fell in love with this thing, and now they can’t stop talking about how much they hate it. It’s like we’re trapped in a Taylor Swift album.”
Gov. Chris Christie’s grimace said it all — Obama is savvy, but with so much work ahead of him, with the politicians in front of him, he isn’t likely to feel “22″ anytime soon.
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