|Birth name||Khen Rotem|
October 1, 1968 |
|Associated acts||Hadag Nahash
Khen Rotem, known by his stage name Sagol 59 (Hebrew: סגול 59), is an Israeli rapper. He is a Jerusalem-based hip-hop MC and hailed as the "Israeli godfather of hip hop." He also writes about music for many Israeli publications, including Haaretz and the Tel Aviv guide City Mouse.
Rotem was born in Israel and raised on a kibbutz, Ein HaHoresh. He served for three years in the Israel Defense Forces. His political views have been described as left wing, although he says, "I try to look at things from the human side and not so much the political side."
He grew up listening to and playing rock and blues music, and was first exposed to hip hop in the late-80s. In 1991-92 he lived in England, where he first heard Ice Cube's Death Certificate, which he says is the record that made him “in awe of this whole hip hop thing.” He took the name Sagol 59 ("Purple 59") from his kibbutz laundry tag identification code.
In 2000, Sagol 59 released The Blue Period, the first album by a solo hip hop artist in Israel. His first four albums and an EP were released in Israel, and are now available in the US online. On each album, he re-recorded a classic hip hop track in an Israeli version. On 2006's Hip Hop Einstein, for instance, he re-did "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, with new lyrics to reflect the Israeli reality. In 2008, Sagol was signed to JDub Records, releasing Make Room, his first American project. Two years later, the label put out a digital album consisting of remixes, b-sides, rare and unreleased tracks from the first decade of Sagol's career.
2011 saw the release of Another Passenger, an album on which Sagol returned to his blues-rock-folk roots. Another Passenger, produced by Amir Estlein, features Sagol singing and playing guitar, alongside notable Israeli musicians such as Geva Alon, Rona Keinan, Dan Toren, Jazz saxophonist Albert Begger, members of Red Band and poet Ronnie Someck. In the Spring of 2012, Sagol was featured on Jenerous Skillz, a digitally released global Jewish Hip Hop album, that he also executive produced. In August 2012, Sagol released the track "Westerns," a collaboration with New York rapper Kool G Rap.
Sagol collaborated with Israeli-American folk singer Ami Yares on the 2015 album The Promised Land: The Grateful Dead / Jerry Garcia Hebrew Project, featuring Hebrew language covers of songs by The Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia. Sagol conceived of the project in 2013, and spent approximately 18 months translating the lyrics from English into Hebrew. It is the first ever album of Hebrew versions of Grateful Dead songs.
Fellow Israelis Sagol and Sha’anan Streett of Hadag Nahash created controversy in 2001 by teaming up with Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar (aka TN, of the group DAM) on "Summit Meeting," which was the first ever Jewish-Arab hip hop collaboration. Released during the Second Intifada, the song called on leaders of both nations to resume peace talks. Since then, Sagol has been involved in endeavors designed to promote peace and unity between Jews and Muslims, appearing on mixed bills such as 2004's JDub Unity Sessions in Brooklyn with Matisyahu and TN; 2006's Rap for Justice in Amsterdam with DAM and Ramallah Underground; the Hip Hop Sulha in New York and San Francisco, described as an Israeli and Palestinian hip hop showcase; frequently collaborating with Arab-Israeli rapper Saz; and, along with Daniel Sieradski (aka Mobius), organizing Corner Prophets, a cultural initiative encouraging Israelis and Palestinians to find common ground through art and music.
His track "Big Ben" was included on Celebrate Hip Hop: Jewish Artists from Around the World, a 2005 compilation also featuring cuts from RZA and Blood of Abraham. "Big Ben" eulogizes a close friend and music partner who was killed in the 2002 bombing of the Hebrew University cafeteria in Jerusalem.
In 2007, Subliminal released a Holocaust memorial song and video, "Adon Olam, Ad Matai" ("God Almighty, Until When?"). In response, Sagol recorded "Shoah Business," calling Subliminal out for what Sagol perceived as lyrics exploiting the Holocaust.
In 2011, along with seven other Israeli MCs of varying ancestry, Sagol recorded "List of Demands," in support of demonstrations taking place in Israel calling for equal rights among citizens. The following year, the song was included on the mixtape Internationally Known Vol. 2.
In September 2014, Sagol appeared as a featured guest artist at the MasterPeace concert held at Amsterdam's Ziggo Dome, along with Palestinian rapper Saz. Sagol and Saz performed the newly recorded song "From The Beginning" at the concert.
Sagol was interviewed for the 2005 documentary I Know I'm Not Alone, directed by Michael Franti of Spearhead. The film, which premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival, is about music in Middle Eastern occupied territories. Sagol also appears in Joshua Atesh Litle's 2010 documentary The Furious Force of Rhymes, about the effect of hip hop worldwide, featuring his 2008 song "Jerusalem."
Artistic Style & Acclaim
Jewlicious says Sagol's "raps are earthy, poetic, rough and real." MTV Iggy says he has "gained a legendary reputation in and out of his country" and "his raps are hot." In a KlezmerShack.com review of the compilation Celebrate Hip Hop, on which Sagol appears, Sagol's exploration of social corruption and religious conflict is singled out as being "especially revealing."
- The Blue Period (2000, Fact Records)
- Where Did We Go Wrong (2002, Fact Records)
- The Two Sides of Purple 59 (2003, NMC Records)
- Hip Hop Einstein (2006, NMC Records)
- Make Room (2008, JDub Records)
- Remixed 2000-2010 (2010, JDub Records)
- Another Passenger (2011, Lev Group Media / 8th Note Records)
- Leave Something For The Guests (2015, Official mixtape / Bandcamp)
- The Promised Land: The Grateful Dead / Jerry Garcia Hebrew Project - with Ami Yares (2015)
- Reason to Die (2003, 9 Records)
- A Stranger Song: A Hebrew Tribute to Leonard Cohen (2004, Blind Janitor) – "Chelsea Hotel No. 2"
- Celebrate Hip Hop: Jewish Artists from Around the World (2006, Craig N Co) – "Big Ben"
- Rooftop Roots III (2007, JDub Records) – "Lech Kadima" feat. Roy
- Rooftop Roots IV (2008, JDub Records) – "Jerusalem" feat. Sha’anan Streett and Rebel Sun
- JDub Presents Jewltide (2008, JDub Records) – "Leeches (DJ Spooky Remix)" and "Till the Fat Lady Dances" feat. Noa Faran
- Internationally Known Vol. 2 (2012, Nomadic Wax) – "List of Demands"
- Jenerous Skillz (2012, Uneek Media / Corner Prophets) - "The Tunez" feat. Controverse, Lefty, Shiroto, Stepper & Benyomen; "Work With DAT" feat. Stepper, Lefty & De Cipher; "J-Funk" feat. Controverse, Benyomen, MC Theory, Mic G & Big J; "Strike Down Upon Thee" feat. OBD, Controverse & MC Theory
- "Fight Rebel Sun" - Coolooloosh feat. Sagol 59, Quami, Sha'anan Streett, Kaolina and Kashi – from Coolooloosh (2007, Coolooloosh)
- "Microphone Patuach" – Peled & Ortega feat. Extra G, Ori Shochat and Sagol 59 – from Special Delivery (2010, High Fiber Productions)
- "Lo Bai'm Betov" – Produx feat. Sagol 59 – from Resurrection of the Dead (2010, Madman)
- "Intro" and "My Hood" – Nouveau Depart feat. Sagol 59 – from Nouveau Depart (2013, Baruch & Jo)
- Blue White Collar Criminal (2004, dir. Noam Kaplan)
- I Know I'm Not Alone (2005, dir. Michael Franti)
- Holy Land Hardball (2010, dir. Brett Rapkin and Eric Kesten) – music only
- The Furious Force of Rhymes (2010, dir. Joshua Atesh Litle)
- Be A Nelson - Music Above Fighting (2015, dir. Remko Geursen)
- Tim McGirk, "Taking the Rap," Time, February 22, 2007.
- Sagol 59, "Land of no hop," Haaretz, November 11, 2009.
- Sagol 59 author page, City Mouse.
- David Wainer, "Jewish, Arab rappers in Israel find common ground," Ynetnews, August 2, 2007.
- Ari Miller, "Letter from Zion Square," New Voices, March 8, 2005.
- Dorian Lynskey, "Two Sworn Enemies and a Microphone," Guilt & Pleasure, Spring 2006.
- "Live From Jerusalem: Sagol 59," Riotsound, 2006.
- "Artist Profile: Sagol 59," JDub Records.
- “JDub is 5 Years Old – Come to the Party!” Jewlicious, July 18, 2008.
- "5 Must-See Israeli Bands at CMJ Music Marathon 2010," MTV Iggy, 2010.
- "Another Passenger," Israel-Music.com, 2011. Accessed March 15, 2012.
- "Jenerouz Skillz: A collaboration of cross-culture unity," Uneek-Media.com; "Jenerous Skillz: A Global Jewish Hip Hop Project," Uneek-Media.com, April 27, 2012; "Jenerous Skillz - A Global Jewish Hip Hop Album," Cornerprophets.com, April 27, 2012.
- "Israeli rapper collaborates with Hip Hop legend Kool G Rap," Cornerprophets.com, August 25, 2012.
- David Brinn, “The Dead make it to the promised land,” Jerusalem Post, April 20, 2015.
- Alix Wall, “Grateful Dead in Hebrew – new album offers a new listening experience,” Jweekly, April 23, 2015.
- Rachel Breitman, "Rapping in the name of interfaith tolerance," USA Today, October 2, 2006.
- John Pendygraft, "Middle East rappers escalate word wars," Tampa Bay Times, March 8, 2009.
- "History," JDub Records. Accessed March 15, 2012.
- Alexander Gelfand, "Hip Hop as Conflict Resolution," The Forward, September 8, 2006.
- "Subliminal Tackles the Holocaust," Jewlicious, April 18, 2007.
- Mobius, "Sagol 59 fires back at Subliminal for tasteless Yom Hashoah track," Jewschool.com, May 6, 2007.
- "Israeli rappers record track to support demonstrations," Cornerprophets.com, August 28, 2011.
-  masterpeace.org, September 16, 2014.
- Mobius, "Franti Drops In For Doc," Jewschool.com, February 14, 2005.
- The Furious Force of Rhymes official website.
- "Israeli Bands Invade CMJ," Jewlicious, October 10, 2010.
- Ari Davidow, "Celebrate Hip Hop," KlezmerShack.com, November 28, 2004.