Connect with us
Seder Passover
Israel Bonds RRSP
JNF Canada

RSS

The 10 most influential Jewish rappers of the past 50 years

(JTA) — Since the birth of hip-hop 50 years ago, plenty of Jewish rappers have picked up a microphone and rocked a crowd. They’ve spit rhymes in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, even Aramaic. Collectively, they’ve shattered stereotypes about what Jews look and sound like.

But hip-hop is hypercompetitive, so the question must be asked: Who are the Jewish artists who have made the biggest impact on the culture?

To try to answer that question, I solicited the help of some serious hip-hop heads: brothers Eric and Jeff Rosenthal, together known as ItsTheReal. They are New York City-based writers, sketch comedians and podcasters; their latest podcast, “The Blog Era,” tells the story of how anonymous kids on the internet helped obscure rappers become global superstars.

RELATED: From Rick Rubin to Doja Cat, Jews have helped shape the first 50 years of hip-hop

The rappers they chose for this list, which is organized alphabetically and actually includes 12 people (since the Beastie Boys were a trio), span generations and geographical regions. All of them have Jewish heritage, but they do not necessarily make use of it in their art. The only other traits they share, in the words of the Rosenthal brothers, are that “everyone loves hip-hop and everybody is authentically themselves.”

The Alchemist

The Alchemist performs with Boldy James at a festival in Oslo, Norway, Aug. 10, 2023. (Per Ole Hagen/Redferns/Getty Images)

Background: Born Alan Daniel Maman in Beverly Hills, CA; age 45; 3 solo studio albums, 15 albums as producer

Best known for: Producing songs for Nas, Eminem, Fat Joe, Mobb Deep, Jadakiss, The Lox, Action Bronson, among others

Most Jewish moment: In 2015, he released “Israeli Salad,” an instrumental album built around samples of Israeli songs that includes a track titled “Bone Thugs N’ Haifa.”

ItsTheReal says: “Alchemist is the guy who everybody looks up to like, ‘Oh, s—, that’s an actual cool Jew in this space.’ From his dress to his attitude to the music he makes, he exudes hip-hop. He lives in an apartment with his wife and kids on the westside of L.A., making beats for fun. He’s independent and lives in that persona. His journey from teenage rapper in Beverly Hills to essential production partner in the seminal Queens group Mobb Deep is genuine and way more impactful than being put in a box of ‘Jewish rapper who makes it big and sells out in some way or another.’”

Beastie Boys

The Beastie Boys, shown in an undated photo, were early rap pioneers. (L. Cohen/WireImage/Getty Images)

Background: Core members were Michael “Mike D” Diamond, Adam “MCA” Yauch, Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz, all born in New York City; active from 1981 to 2012 (Yauch’s death); 8 studio albums, 3 Grammys

Best known for: “(You’ve Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party),” “Intergalactic,” “Sabotage,” “No Sleep Till Brooklyn”

Most Jewish moment: In “Shadrach,” a song on their 1989 album “Paul’s Boutique,” the Beastie Boys compare themselves to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, three Jewish men who defied Nebuchadnezzar II, king of Babylon, in the Book of Daniel.

ItsTheReal says: “The Beastie Boys are the blueprint. They came from a punk background. They were hanging out with Rick Rubin, and shifted their love of punk and anti-authoritarianism across cultural lines. They’re notable for being early, obviously, and being part of that blueprint, but also for taking hip-hop into such weird and crazy places, fusing it with skate life and being progressive heroes.”

BLP Kosher

BLP Kosher in his music video for “The Nac 3.” (Screenshot from YouTube)

Background: Born Benjamin Landy Pavlon in Broward County, Florida; age 23; begins a national tour (“The Dreidel That Never Stopped Spinning Tour”) in September

Best known for: “Special K,” “Jew on the Canoe,” his unique hairstyle (a combination of Orthodox Jewish and Haitian styles)

Most Jewish moment: Every part of his rap persona references Jewish culture, from his MC name, to his nickname (“Dreidel Man”), to the Star of David necklaces he’s always wearing, to the title of his new album, “Bars Mitzvah.”

ItsTheReal says: “BLP Kosher is the future. He doesn’t have a huge catalog. I don’t know who his music is for, or who the joke is supposed to be on, if there is a joke. Honestly, he seems sincere, so give him the benefit of the doubt. But his existence flies in the face of every other trend. We live in a time now where there are a lot of stereotypes, antisemitism, and violence, and for him to be proudly and outwardly Jewish, to be accepted by the rougher edges of Florida and to be out there on a stage calling yourself that, I respect that.”

Doja Cat

Doja Cat performs at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., Aug. 11, 2019. (Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Background: Born Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini in Los Angeles; age 27; Ashkenazi Jewish and South African heritage; 3 studio albums; in the top 50 most streamed artists in the world on Spotify

Best known for: “Say So,” “Get Into It (Yuh),” “Mooo!” and her combative social media persona

Most Jewish moment: In an episode of season 2 of the FX series “Dave,” the character played by Jewish rapper Lil Dicky matches with a character played by Doja Cat on a dating app. His father asks if she’s Jewish, and he confirms that she is after consulting her Wikipedia entry.

ItsTheReal says: “There’s a small number of Jewish rappers who have broken through, and there’s an even smaller number of Jewish women who rap. There’s a Jewish stereotype where you get painted as not tough, but Doja is extremely tough, brazen, confident. She is somebody who has built up this massive audience and isn’t afraid to lose them if they don’t follow her lead. That’s brave. That’s exciting. That’s very punk. Two spaces she occupies, L.A. and pop music, can be so soulless, but she is bringing a realness to both.”

Drake

Drake performs at the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Dec. 9, 2022. (Prince Williams/Wireimage/Getty Images)

Background: Born Aubrey Drake Graham in Toronto; age 36; Ashkenazi Jewish and African American heritage; former child actor on “Degrassi: The Next Generation”; 8 studio albums, 5 Grammys; Spotify’s most streamed rapper, with more than 72 million monthly listeners

Best known for: “Hotline Bling” (1.9 billion views on YouTube), “God’s Plan” (1.5 billion views), and dozens of other hits

Most Jewish moment: It’s a tie between his 2014 SNL skit, “Drake’s Bar Mitzvah,” and his music video for “HYFR (Hell Ya F— Right),” which was filmed inside Miami’s Temple Israel.

ItsTheReal says: “He’s from Toronto, Canada, he’s half singing, half rapping, and he’s Jewish. Those are all these things that are traditionally outsider-ish. And for him to come on the scene, for him to be accepted the way that he has, and for his music to cross over and become as dominant as it has — that’s a testament to who he is. He weaves his Jewish identity and his sense of humor into his videos and his output in a very smart way. Today, Drake is still the goofy, fun-loving, boastful half singer, half rapper that he was at the very beginning.”

El-P

El-P, right, performs with Killer Mike as Run The Jewels at the Reading Festival in Reading, England, Aug. 28, 2022. (Simone Joyner/Getty Images)

Background: Born Jaime Meline in New York City; age 48; 3 solo studio albums, 2 albums with rap trio Company Flow, 4 albums with duo Run The Jewels

Best known for: “Legend Has It,” “Ooh LA LA,” producing songs for a variety of artists

Most Jewish moment: He has said he “grew up loving Jewish deli food” and was an investor in Frankel’s, a deli in Brooklyn that opened in 2016.

ItsTheReal says: “His whole movement is about independence: independent record label, not going along with the mainstream, really concerned with staying true to who he is. That influence is so much greater than any of his solo albums or any of his work in Run The Jewels, which by the way has been super successful. Today, with so many people doing it on their own, because now technology has caught up — you can record music on your own, you can distribute it on your own, you can publicize it on your own — there’s a lot more stuff that El-P was early on that you see the influence of today.”

Mac Miller

Mac Miller performs in Long Beach, California, April 29, 2018. (Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

Background: Born Malcolm James McCormick in Pittsburgh; died of a drug overdose in 2018 at age 26; 6 studio albums; Spotify’s 19th-most-streamed rapper

Best known for: “Self Care,” “Best Day Ever,” his 2018 Tiny Desk concert (which has 105 million views)

Most Jewish moment: In a 2010 interview with his hometown Jewish newspaper, the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, he talked about his “chai” tattoo and said the best Hanukkah present he ever received was a keyboard. “But the worst, and every Jew can relate to this, was being all excited to open up the present, thinking it’s going to be something big, and it’s socks,” he said.

ItsTheReal says: “He was a generational talent, and there’s a reason why he’s been lionized, and it’s not only because of his death. At the beginning of his career he was looked at with skepticism because he’s a white rapper, a frat rapper, and he lived in that world. But he didn’t want to. Much like the Beastie Boys — whom Mac studied, just like he did Biggie and DJ Premier — he evolved. He decamped to L.A. and forged a tight and genuine community. His home became the hub for an emerging sound: Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy, Odd Future. Everybody wanted to work with him because he was talented and true. He used his powers for good.”

MC Serch

MC Serch, left, with the other members of 3rd Bass in New York City in 1989. (Al Pereira/Getty Images/Michael Ochs Archives)

Background: Born Michael Berrin in New York City; age 56; 1 solo studio album, 2 studio albums with rap trio 3rd Bass (with Pete Nice and DJ Richie Rich)

Best known for: “The Gas Face,” “Pop Goes the Weasel” (a 3rd Bass diss against Vanilla Ice), “Back To The Grill,” executive producing the classic Nas album “Illmatic”

Most Jewish moment: In a 2018 VLADTV interview, he talked about growing up in a Conservative family in the heavily Jewish Far Rockaway neighborhood of Queens. He recalled how he was asked to perform the duties of a Shabbos goy for his Orthodox neighbors. “To ask another Jew to break Sabbath because you don’t see them as being Jewish enough, it’s crazy foul,” he said. “I didn’t know until later that’s lashon hara, that’s crazy.”

ItsTheReal says: “White groups were so rare back then [in the late 1980s]. The Beastie Boys were the white crew, and then 3rd Bass showed up and they became the cool, white Jewish guys. Even more than the Beastie Boys, MC Serch lived all the early elements of hip-hop culture. He could battle somebody in a cypher and get busy on a dance floor. He’s gone on to have this career in lots of different lanes, including television and radio and as an executive, helping put Nas on.”

Mike Posner

Mike Posner performs in Cleveland, July 8, 2010. (Joey Foley/Getty Images)

Background: Born Michael Robert Henrion Posner in Detroit; age 35; 4 studio albums

Best known for: “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” (a remix of which has been streamed 1.7 billion times on Spotify); “Cooler Than Me”; writing songs for Justin Bieber, Maroon 5, and Big Sean, among others; walking solo across the continental United States “to remind people your life is now”

Most Jewish moment: During his Walk Across America in 2019, he told the Detroit Jewish News that his bar mitzvah speech was about the role Jews played during the civil rights movement.

ItsTheReal says: “Mike’s path was as unique as his sound — one that grew out of freestyling with his childhood friend Big Sean and turned into a rap/singing hybrid — and it hit at the right time. He was booked at college after college and earned such a loyal fan base. Unsurprisingly, Mike Posner copycats turned up by the dozens not long after. He wrote songs for a lot of people that he didn’t get recognized for, and his musical influence can still be heard today.”

Shyne

Shyne, born Jamaal Barrow, now serves in the Belize House of Representatives. (Royal Shyne/Flickr)

Background: Born Jamaal Barrow in Belize, he legally changed his name to Moses Michael Levi Barrow after converting to Orthodox Judaism in 2010; age 44; 2 studio albums; currently serves in the Belize House of Representatives

Best known for: “Bad Boyz,” his gravelly voice, his involvement in a 1999 nightclub shooting that resulted in his serving 9 years in prison

Most Jewish moment: Telling The New York Times in a 2010 interview in Jerusalem, where he was living at the time, “My entire life screams that I have a Jewish neshama [soul]” and “There’s nothing in the Chumash [text of the Torah] that says I can’t drive a Lamborghini.”

ItsTheReal says: “What a voice, what an attitude, what a swagger. He was sent to jail at the height of his superstardom. It’s hard to know how anyone could bounce back from that, evolve, reset. For Shyne, at life’s most trying intersection, he found Judaism. After he converted, there were lots of jokes — we made a lot of them — because it was so unlikely. But jokes aside, there’s no question that Shyne is the best Jewish rapper of all time.”


The post The 10 most influential Jewish rappers of the past 50 years appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Continue Reading

RSS

New Faculty Campaign Aims to Show Solidarity With Jewish Students

Anti-Israel students protest at Columbia University in New York City. Photo: Reuters/Jeenah Moon

Over 1,000 university professors will participate in a new campaign to show solidarity with Jewish students experiencing levels of antisemitism that are without precedent in the history of the United States, the Academic Engagement Network (AEN), which promotes academic freedom, announced on Tuesday.

Titled “KeeptheLightOn,” the initiative comes amid a reckoning of congressional investigations, lawsuits, and civil rights inquiries prompted by an explosion of antisemitic discrimination at some of America’s most prestigious universities. It will see the formation of a new group, the Faculty Against Antisemitism Movement (FAAM), comprising professors from across the US who will pressure senior administrators at their schools to address anti-Jewish hatred as robustly as other forms of racism.

“We have written books, op-eds, and articles, but they are not penetrating the echo chamber of anti-Zionist antisemitism,” Southwestern University English professor Michael Saenger said in a press release. “As with previous protest movements, visual displays are sometimes necessary to get people to stop demonizing marginalized groups. We need to respond to bullying and hate, directed against ourselves and Jewish students, more directly and more personally: by visibly advocating for a university that treats Jews as people, and that treats Israel as a nation.”

As part of the campaign, FAAM professors will leave their office lights on after hours to “publicly demonstrate their commitment to fighting antisemitism.” AEN added on Tuesday that the lights will “also symbolize the faculty’s commitment to ‘light a fire’ under administrators to ensure a better academic year ahead.”

“Keep the Light On” was inspired by University of California, Berkeley professor Richard Hassner, who last month held what was widely believed to be the first teacher “sleep-in” protest of antisemitism, AEN said. For two weeks, Hassner lived in his office until administrators agreed to stop an anti-Zionist group’s blockade of a campus foot-bridge which made it impossible for Jewish students to cross without being verbally abused.

Numerous Jewish faculty members at other campuses have also begun stepping up and demanding a change. Some have organized faculty trips to Israel. Others have cobbled their peers together to form groups — such as Yale’s Forum for Jewish Faculty & Friends and Indiana University’s Faculty and Staff for Israel — which have since grown exponentially and will serve as a well of support for FAAM.

“The FAAM initiative is both a distressing sign of the times and a hopeful symbol for the future not only for Jews but also for the academy,” Smith College professor and AEN advisory board member Donna Robinson Divine said. “An academy that has become the core location for an activism promoting social justice cannot sustain its credibility by tolerating hostile attacks against its Jewish student and faculty. Nor can education leaders preserve the legitimacy of the universities over which they preside by ignoring the recycling of this old and dangerous hatred. Rooting out antisemitism in classrooms, lecture halls, and social gatherings is thus as important for Jewish students and faculty as it is for the academy and the nation.”

As The Algemeiner has previously reported, Jewish college students have never faced such extreme levels of hatred. Since Oct. 7 — when Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists invaded Israel, massacred 1,200 people, and kidnapped 253 others as hostages — they have endured death threats, physical assaults, and volleys of racist verbal attacks unlike anything seen in the US since the 1950s.

Many college officials at first responded to the problem sluggishly, according to critics, who noted universities offered a host of reasons for why antisemitic speech should be protected even as they censored students and professors who uttered statements perceived as being conservative. At the same time, progressive thought leaders came under fire for hesitating to acknowledge a swelling of antisemitic attitudes in institutions and organizations reputed to be champions of civil rights and persecuted minority groups. One recent study found that US universities have demonstrated an “anti-Jewish double standard” by responding to Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre across southern Israel and the ensuing surge in campus antisemitism much less forcefully than they did to crimes perpetrated against African Americans and Asians.

The situation changed after three presidents of elite universities were hauled before the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce to account for their handling of antisemitism and said on the record that there are cases in which they would decline to punish students who called for a genocide of the Jewish people. The stunning admissions prompted the resignations of Elizabeth M. Magill as president of University of Pennsylvania and eventually of Claudine Gay, Harvard University’s former president, who would not leave until a series of reporters exposed her as a serial plagiarist.

The US Congress is currently investigating whether several colleges intentionally ignored discrimination when its victims were Jewish. On Wednesday, its focus will shift to Columbia University, where Jewish students have been beaten up and harassed because they support Israel. The school’s president, Minouche Shafik, is scheduled to testify, and the event promises to be a much scrutinized affair.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post New Faculty Campaign Aims to Show Solidarity With Jewish Students first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

Continue Reading

RSS

Adath Israel and Beth David: a pair of Conservative synagogues in Toronto narrowly decided against becoming one

It was close, but Toronto synagogues Adath Israel and Beth David will remain separate entities after Beth David’s vote on amalgamation fell short of the required two-thirds threshold. Adath Israel, the larger of the two Conservative synagogues by membership and facility size, voted overwhelmingly on April 14 to amalgamate, with 91 percent in favour. But […]

The post Adath Israel and Beth David: a pair of Conservative synagogues in Toronto narrowly decided against becoming one appeared first on The Canadian Jewish News.

Continue Reading

RSS

Amid Dimming Hopes That This Year Will Be in Jerusalem, Jews in Ethiopia Prepare for World’s Largest Seder

Jewish women in Ethiopia sort through grain to be used in baking matzot. Photo: Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry (SSEJ)

The Jewish community in the embattled region of Gondar, Ethiopia is preparing for the world’s largest Passover Seder this year, with nearly 4,000 Ethiopian Jews residing in camps and awaiting immigration to Israel expected to attend.

Over 80,000 matzot have been baked by members of the community over the past several weeks in preparation for the holiday, Jeremy Feit, the president of the Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry (SSEJ) aid group, told The Algemeiner. A smaller Seder, with almost 1,000 attendees, will take place in the capital of Addis Ababa.

The Jewish holiday of Passover, which celebrates the Biblical story of the Israelites’ escape from slavery in Egypt, will begin next Monday evening and end the following Tuesday.

A portion of the 80,000 matzot for use during Passover in Ethiopia. Photo: Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry (SSEJ)

Past Passover Seders in Ethiopia have provided attendees a rare opportunity to partake in the traditional feast, offering some their first ever taste of meat — a luxury they could not otherwise afford. But according to Feit, food price hikes of 50 percent to 100 percent have meant that this year’s feast will largely consist of potatoes and eggs.

“With the extreme price increases and the resulting hunger, the community will feel the intensity as they pray to celebrate the Seder next year with their families in Jerusalem,” Feit said.

The Seder comes on the heels of an airlift of medical supplies for the beleaguered community, facilitated by SSEJ. Ten pallets of aid were delivered to a medical clinic established by the group a year ago in Gondar, serving 3,300 children and 700 elderly. The aid was dedicated in memory of former US Sen. Joe Lieberman, who served as SSEJ’s honorary chairman and who passed away during the weeks-long airlift operation.

SSEJ, which is based in the US  and entirely volunteer-run, is the only provider of humanitarian aid to Jews in Ethiopia. The group aims to mitigate some of the hunger ravaging the community by providing more than 2.5 million meals per year, prioritizing very young children, pregnant and nursing women, and students at a local yeshiva, who Feit said were often “so hungry they would faint in class.”

SSEJ and its leaders have assisted around 60,000 Ethiopians immigrate to Israel, more than the total number brought to the Jewish state during its storied military operations in 1984 and 1991.

Jewish men in Ethiopia need the dough that will be baked into matzot. Photo: Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry (SSEJ)

According to Feit, some 13,000 Jews still remain in Ethiopia. Recent years have seen several hundred Ethiopian Jews immigrate to Israel at a time, especially during periods of violent civil strife, but even that trickle has dried up following the brutal Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on southern Israel.

“The average person in Gondar and Addis Ababa has been waiting to make aliyah for 20 years,” Feit said, using the Hebrew term for immigration. “They left their villages with the thought that Israel was going to bring them in. And they’ve been left since as internally displaced refugees.”

Feit said the decades-long wait is especially painful for those with first-degree relatives in Israel, and is further compounded for those with relatives serving in the Israeli military.

“Jews in Ethiopia are extremely concerned about their [family members’] welfare as the IDF [Israel Defense Fores] battles Hamas terrorists” in Gaza, he explained. “They are especially concerned given the vastly disproportionate number of Ethiopian Jewish soldiers killed in Israel during the current conflict.” Jews in Ethiopia, he averred, comprise “one of the most Zionist communities in the world.”

Since Oct. 7, there has been no indication as to how many Ethiopian Jews will be brought to Israel and when. Those with relatives in Israel were struck with another blow when Israel’s economy took a hit following the Hamas onslaught, and many of those who rely on remittance from their loved ones in Israel stopped receiving money.

“This has left the Jews in Ethiopia in a dire situation, with food and medical care hard to come by. Living in squalor, without access to clean water, electricity, or even bathrooms, the malnourished Jews in Ethiopia suffer untold horrors,” Feit said.

Despite the grim depiction, Feit struck a more positive note about the upcoming holiday.

Ethiopian Jews eating matzot in synagogue last year. Photo: Struggle to Save Ethiopian Jewry (SSEJ)

“Given that most of the year they’re feeling despair at their lack of redemption, at least Passover is a time to celebrate the possibility of redemption and reunification,” he said. “Being able to celebrate with thousands of their friends and family members in a joyous celebration of Passover is a welcome relief.”

The post Amid Dimming Hopes That This Year Will Be in Jerusalem, Jews in Ethiopia Prepare for World’s Largest Seder first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

Continue Reading

Copyright © 2017 - 2023 Jewish Post & News