Since winning his U.S. Senate seat in 2010, Marco Rubio of Florida has frequently weighed in on immigration, education and the economy.
But the 42-year-old freshman lawmaker apparently has a lot to say about another topic: Rap music.
"The only guy that speaks at any sort of depth is, in my mind, Eminem. He's a guy that does music, that talks about the struggles of addiction and before that violence, with growing up in a broken family, not being a good enough father," Rubio said in an interview with GQ released Monday.
Saying he "came of age" during the East Coast v. West Coast rap debate of the '90s, a cross-country rivalry between various artists, Rubio considers himself a serious fan of hip hop, which he says has transformed into a new genre altogether.
"Hip Hop's 30 years old now and it's crossed over and sort of become indistinguishable from pop music in general," Rubio said. "You know, many people say Nicki Minaj is a rapper, but she's also a singer. Kanye's another guy who's also a rapper, but his songs aren't pure rap anymore."
Rubio, who was vetted as a potential running mate for Mitt Romney, has stolen the spotlight in the days after the election by traveling to Iowa to headline a fundraiser for Gov. Terry Branstad. The move quickly stirred rumors of a potential 2016 bid, given Iowa's standing as the first-in-the-nation state to hold a presidential primary caucus. The senator has also been vocal on the need for immigration reform and a more inclusive Republican Party, echoing post-mortem refrains heard across the GOP.
And while Rubio is known for giving carefully-crafted statements, he gave a simple answer when asked about his three favorite rap songs: "'Straight Outta Compton' by N.W.A. (1988) 'Killuminati' by Tupac (1996). Eminem's 'Lose Yourself' (2002)."
He was also asked if he has one song in particular that "psyches" him up. Rubio, however, said his life doesn't have much room for a warm-up routine. "I don't have time for that. You know you can't put on earphones and then storm the floor and vote."
Also during the interview, Rubio was asked to name his best friend. Other than his wife, the senator pointed to South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, a tea party favorite who played an instrumental role in helping Rubio get elected two years ago.
"He's a great source of wisdom as a person who's had to make decisions that have made him unpopular in his own party," he said, also naming former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush as a mentor.
Rubio may be a student of rap, but he's no scholar of science, he argued. Asked how old the Earth is, Rubio said such an answer was not his to give.
"I'm not a scientist. I don't think I'm qualified to answer a question like that. At the end of the day, I think there are multiple theories out there on how the universe was created and I think this is a country where people should have the opportunity to teach them all," he said, adding that he thinks parents should be able to teach both creationism and evolution.
"Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I'm not sure we'll ever be able to answer that," he said. "It's one of the great mysteries."
The answer will no doubt fuel liberal blogs and many scientists who point firmly to the widely-held belief that the earth is 4.5 billion years old. But by appealing to both sides of the argument, his answer also gives him room to court more moderate voters--many of whom can be found in Iowa.
For now, though, Rubio seems to be more precise on his music tastes. Of the hip artists he doesn't favor, Rubio says Pitbull--who's known for "Back in Time" (2012) and "I Know You Want Me" (2009)--doesn't quite do the trick.
"(Pitbull's) songs are all party songs. There's no message for him, compared to like an Eminem," he said. "But look, there's always been a role for that in American music. There's always been a party person, but he's a young guy. You know, maybe as he gets older, he'll reflect in his music more as time goes on. I mean, he's not Tupac. He's not gonna be writing poetry."
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