Jewish hip hop
|Jewish hip hop|
|Stylistic origins||Jewish music, hip hop, klezmer, reggae, world music|
|Cultural origins||Early 2000s, North America, Israel, and Europe|
|Typical instruments||Rapping, turntabling, beatboxing, sampling|
|Jewish rock, Israeli hip hop|
Jewish hip hop artists have come from a wide variety of countries and cultures. Elements of reggae, klezmer, and other world music are often incorporated alongside traditional hip hop production techniques like cutting, scratching, sampling, looping, and beatboxing. Many Jewish rappers are also multilingual, rapping in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Aramaic, Ladino, and other languages, depending on their background.
1980s through 1990s
From its commercial golden age in the 1980s and early 1990s, Jewish artists, producers, and executives played a significant role in the hip hop industry. These included N.W.A. manager Jerry Heller, producer Rick Rubin, and former Def Jam Recordings CEO Lyor Cohen, as well as majority-Jewish rap groups like 3rd Bass, The Whooliganz, and most prominently, the Beastie Boys. Josh Noreck of Hip Hop Hoodíos later stated that "before Eminem, pretty much the only white rappers were Jewish." In Israel, Jewish rappers like Shabak Samech's Mook E, Sagol 59, Subliminal, The Shadow, and SHI 360 helped pioneer the country's hip hop scene in the late '90s and early 2000s. Despite this, few of these acts acknowledged their Jewish heritage in their music, with some exceptions being Hip Hop Hoodíos, the parody group 2 Live Jews, and Ruthless Records signees Blood of Abraham.
During this time, Jewish religious music occasionally incorporated hip hop, although largely for parody and children's music, such as Craig Taubman's "Chanukah Rap" and Shlock Rock's songs with Etan G.
2000s to present
The Jewish label JDub Records, founded in 2002, was one of the first to promote consciously Jewish rap artists, with its roster including Sagol 59, Canadian klezmer-rapper Socalled, the Ethiopian-Israeli Akum, and the Middle Eastern-inflected Balkan Beat Box.
In 2004, as part of his Celebrate series, Craig Taubman co-produced with music video director Jeremy Goldscheider the first Jewish hip-hop compilation album, Celebrate Hip Hop: Jewish Artists From Around the Globe. Contributing artists included Hip Hop Hoodíos, Sagol 59, Blood of Abraham, Socalled, Mook E, Etan G, and Remedy of the Wu-Tang Clan, as well as lesser known artists like the Russian group iSQUAD and the British groups Antithesis and Emunah.
In the mid-2000s, Hasidic reggae rap artist Matisyahu experienced mainstream success; his albums Live at Stubb's (2005) and Youth (2006) were certified gold, while his single "King Without a Crown" became a Top 40 hit.
Following Matisyahu's success, a number of Hasidic rappers emerged, including Y-Love, DeScribe, Nosson Zand, Eprhyme, and Nissim. Many of these were baalei teshuva, and many of them were promoted through Yemenite producer Diwon's label Shemspeed Records, alongside non-Hasidic artists like Kosha Dillz and Electro Morocco.
In Israel, a number of Orthodox rappers have become popular in both religious and secular circles. The rap rock band Shtar, formed at the Aish HaTorah yeshiva by Seattle rapper Ori Murray and British guitarist Brad Rubinstein, appeared on the reality singing competition HaKokhav HaBa performing Linkin Park's "In the End". Rinat Gutman, the country's first religious female rapper, gained attention in 2015 for her song "Shirat Ha'asavim Hashotim", a darkly humorous song addressing the sexual harassment committed by a number of Orthodox rabbis and other authority figures.
Criticism and controversy
The combination of Jewish music and hip hop has occasionally faced criticism, with rabbinic authorities condemning the use of secular styles and hip hop fans viewing it as gimmicky and inauthentic.
In 2007, two Haredi musicians from Bnei Brak released Rap in Yiddish, an album of Yiddish-language Jewish parody covers of American pop and rap songs by artists like 50 Cent. While the album was moderately successful, a group of Orthodox rabbis published a full-page ad in Hamodia that condemned the album for its "foreign" melodies "under Yiddish and Hasidic cover", calling for a boycott of the album and praising distributors who had already refused to sell it.
Blogger Heshy Fried included "Chabad hip hop artists" on his list of "The Most Annoying Frum Jews", saying "I have no idea what happened, but all of a sudden there are dozens of chabad BT hip hop artists, and I think the market is a bit saturated, don’t you think?"
In a 2010 interview, rapper Y-Love recalled the Committee for Jewish Music, whose Rules for Playing Kosher Music included a prohibition on secular styles like rap music, even without lyrics. In response, he stated, "Music can't be treif; the only thing that can be treif is the content in the music. There's no style of music which is automatically anti-Torah."
Artists with significant religious or cultural attachment to Jewish music.
Secular or mainstream
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- Loolwa Khazzoom (Dec 9, 2004). "Hip-Hop's Jew Crew Takes Center Stage". The Jewish Journal. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
- Alisha Kinman (June 25, 2011). "Jewish Hip Hop". Aish.com. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
- Poch, Raphael (December 14, 2015). "Haredi rap band Shtar hopes to make it at Eurovision". Arutz Sheva. Retrieved 14 December 2015.
- Abigail Klein Leichman (September 30, 2015). "Religious rapper delivers a powerful punchline". ISRAEL21c. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
- Tali Farkash (Aug 10, 2015). "פרשת לא תשתוק: שירת העשבים השוטים" (in Hebrew). Ynet. Retrieved 29 January 2016.
- Yoav Friedman (Aug 18, 2007). "Yiddish rap stirs controversy in Israel". Ynetnews. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- Heshy Fried (Feb 20, 2011). "The most annoying frum Jews". Frum Satire. Retrieved 31 January 2016.
- "Y-Love Speaks Out About Jewish Hip-hop". Leadel.net. YouTube. Retrieved 31 January 2016.