RIP Einstein, Arik that is…

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Israeli music never really got me, compared to the many styles of music I heard coming into my infant ears. Growing up in Israel in the 1980’s was a trip and Tel Aviv was not the crazy bohemian wannabe European city it is now. The music scene was always very interesting, but I was always into the American, and British, music which made me quite biased.

The many singers I enjoyed in my youth were the iconoclasts trumpeting the sounds of peace, love, and change in the turmoil of the Lebanon war and other fun things going on in that decade. One group called Ethnix is one I always enjoyed with their mixture of western music with the Middle Eastern flavor with a sprinkle of Jewish guilt. One of the most prominent of these old school Israeli singers was Arik Einstein who passed away very recently. I am not an expert on the man’s career, but I was introduced to his music through one of my favorite MC’s who sampled a song of his. Edan the Humble Magnificent used a sample of a song from his insanely profound and ahead of its time 2nd LP, titled Beauty & the Beat. The last song on that LP is titled “Promised Land” and as you can see by the title he hooked it up with a perfect match with regards to the beat. As the trumpet and clarinet blasts in the background and the guitar strums slow you hear the darkness and beauty of the original song. Edan kills the track by dropping two lines of rap verses and then stops for a moment and then thunders with the return using the same word of the last verse to start the new string of verses.

So what does this all mean? well, it helps me show how both Jews in Hip Hop and Jewish MC’s identify in their own ways. This is far more covert because he doesn’t blatantly sound out his allegiance to the faith. But, by using this song he is bridging this gap from the old school to the new and back again. He makes the connection of the new Jewish and Israeli sounds sampling the old school garage rockish and folkish sounds. It should also be mentioned that Edan is the son of Israelis so its very fitting to have this extremely talented MC be the next generation of Jewish MC’s.

Rest in Peace, or as we say Zichrono L’Bracha.

Here’s the Edan track that samples the Arik Einstein song:

And here’s the original song titled “Dark, Dark” by Aril Einstein:

Happy Thanksgivnnukah!!! A once in a lifetime event, yo!

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Yo Yo Yo,

This event that we’ve reached only comes once in a life time. Just to show you how rare this is read the stats at this here site by the sages of Chabad: http://www.chabad.org/holidays/chanukah/article_cdo/aid/2343364/jewish/Chanukah-and-Thanksgiving-A-Brief-History.htm

Many people, both Jew and non, don’t really get the full essence of what Channukah really means. The chocolate coins, the jelly donuts, and the potato latkas are symbols, but us Jews don’t take much lightly or even for its surface value. We pride in the fact that we delve into the inner sanctums of the mind, body, and spirit. The origins of Channukah are actually quite bloody a la 300 minus the grand colors and bulging pecks. In its true telling this is the first really Civil War between the Jews. In the Hellenistic period where the Greek nations ruled, although that land mass wasn’t called Greece until quite later, Jews either assimilated or became more emboldened in their practice of Judaism, some even becoming zealous defenders of the faith.

This all came to a head when the new Greek ruler decided to ban visible Jewish practices, that some say was prodded by the assimilated Jewish population. Circumcision was outlawed and became a rallying cry to fight. It was the keeper of the faith against the self loathing Jews. The story remains the same to this day where you have the local assimilated Jew call the cops anytime the local Orthodox take it to the street with dancing and merriment. It’s one thing to do your own thing, but it’s another when you hate your people so much that you take irrational actions which cause nothing but pain and suffering. I’m trying, G-d willing, with my blog to bridge the gap and preach to stop the hate.

Let us include all and in these days where the light is limited, invite them into the world of Channukah. Let’s all love because that’s the true essence of the Almighty’s power.

Happy Thanksgivnnukah to all ya and here are some videos:


Nissim, the Original Black Jewish MC!!!

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He’s not your average MC, but in the modern era of the varying styles who is? You have the nonsensical slurpy style of Danny Brown, the doggedly talented wordsmith with the cool slow flow by the name of Kendrick Lamar, or the hard hitting in your face, take no prisoners bombast from Killer Mike, or his collaboration with El-P’s titled Run The Jewels, just to name the selected few that this good ol’ Jew is banging now. Being from a family who has prided itself in relishing in all that is off the beaten path, including having friends who show me such flicks as Combat Shock and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, I love the different.

MC Nissim Black is one of those MC’s who is different and has changed his lifestyle and ways to worship by converting to Judaism. The MC, formally known as D. Black, hails from Seattle and lived the harsh realities of life, seeing death and tragedy while translating it onto paper, and later into the said. I cannot tell his story to the fullest because you should check it out on his website where you hear the words coming from the man’s mouth. This is an interesting phenomenon because the art of Hip Hop is usually considered rather a-religious as the artists rap about the material things in life, which seems devoid of any soul or spiritual depth. I’ve had many arguments with fellow colleagues and Rabbis about this and they all tow the line of the negativity of the art form. I do agree that the Hip Hop formula, made popular by the white corporate powers, is filled with this objectification of women, homophobia, violence, and nihilism all wrapped with a bow of antipathy. However, there is plenty of Hip Hop, and the artists, who are deep and spiritual…you just haven’t heard much about them. We should always remember that many MC’s in the 1980’s and 1990’s identified with the Nation of Islam or the five percenters like Brand Nubian, KMD, The Wu-Tang Clan, Divine Styler, Rakim, and the Poor Righteous Teachers.

There are plenty other artists who have used the illusion, or delusion of religion through Christianity. One of the most recent example is Kanye West’s latest album Yeezus and the many lyrics laced with religious motifs. Like the talented and very friendly Nissim, there are other Jewish MC’s who are religious but are such a niche that they gain little traction with the greater audiences. I think they should get that chance without seeming too distant from the true spirit of Hip Hop, G-d willing. I should add that it’s also the Jewish hipsters who have dumped on these artists as well. Heeb magazine, for example, is a shlocky tabloid-ish read, but it has very interesting content. But, after reading a small snippet written that shitted on Jewish MC’s I felt very aggravated. These wannabe hip Jews, who aren’t even originally from NYC are far from the ambassadors of cool. There should be much more positive feedback because pessimistic Jews don’t go nowhere, fast.

Anyway, much love and please check these guys out. This is a link to Nissim’s website: Nissim’s website

And a video: http://www.nissimofficial.com/media/#prettyPhoto/1/

It’s The Beastie Boys:

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Although the members of the Beastie Boys are not practicing Jews, they have a special Judaic tint to their music. The Jewish element remains and one example can be found on their fourth album, Ill Communication. In the jam “Eugene’s Lament” you feel the sounds of the old Klezmer music. The track has a piercing violin moving to the sway of the accompaniment while cutting in with sharp precision and verve. Being Jewish in the Hip-Hop scene made them proud of their heritage, but also a bit ambivalent. MCA, who converted to Buddhism in 1994, gave an interview where his identity wasn’t steeped in his Jewish roots, but was more a sense of pride. They speak of their identities in a 1994 SPIN magazine interview, and how the Jewish issue has been a factor. In the interview the reporter writes that, “Hip-hop’s insistent anti-Semitic nattering, usually via the Nation of Islam’s endorsement of such viciously fallacious tracks as Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion” is a source of their defiance. Many Hip-Hop groups have delved into the philosophies of the Nation of Islam, who tend to harbor anti-Semitic beliefs. They lament that factor, but they also say that Judaism itself was never really discussed and none of them are observantly practicing. Still, the note that it’s a uniting cause as MCA says that, “One thing that’s true and cool is that I get a lot of Jewish kids coming up to me feeling pride and strength from what we’re doing.” Many prominent MC’s, as well as the fresh crew of the recent years, were influenced by them. White MC’s saw them as a source of inspiration and pride while feeling confident in their participation of a black art form. Intentionally or not, the Beastie Boys will always be a source of pride to the up-and coming Jews of the Hip-Hop generation.

The Beastie Boys, Eugene’s Lament:

Eat That Matza, Yo

JewBlackFace!!! Who Can Do It!?! Jews and Hip Hop

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Hip Hop came from the streets of the Bronx growing amidst the ashes of burnt buildings and faded dreams. The wasteland of the now gentrified New York City was slowly cutting away at the help certain people were getting. Hip Hop was created from the parties that were mainly seen as an escape from the harsh realities right outside the doors. These communities were predominantly African American and Latino. So, the question is can white boys feel that? Or, can Jew boys feel that?

Through out the past decade Jews have lived in certain run down neighborhoods. Not all Jews escaped to the suburbs, leaving them behind to dwell in areas that were not all bright and lovely. I, for example, moved here from Israel after my parents divorced and my brothers and I lived in the middle class area of New Haven, CT. However, unlike some of my friends my brothers and I couldn’t get funding for the magnet school. Living with two brothers and my mother who was working different jobs (Big Ups to Mom – Imma) made the funds very limited while my father was still in Israel. So, I was sent to the local public school, which was predominantly black and latino. Jews, to this day, live in run down and not so pleasant areas so they have a sense of the ghetto. However, it should be clear that most Jewish Americans live comfortable lives in the suburbs, but there are still some stuck in the cracks.

In a past blog post I wrote on the Beastie Boys and how they were the first white Hip Hop group to make it big. They exposed the larger white audiences to the art and became the faces of Hip Hop by 1986. To certain critics, Hip-Hop veterans, and purist fans of the genre the Beastie Boys seemed like a novelty act with no substantial serious form. These voices were also not amused at the national recognition white men received by co-opting a black art form. Thus far in the history of Hip-Hop there were no white groups or rappers, until the Beasties came onto the scene. The question of their authenticity and co-opting of a black musical style was debated during the height of their popularity. One issue of contention was when they were put on the cover of Spin magazine, being the first Hip-Hop group to receive the honor. The cover, in 1987, caused two types of controversy, first being their seriousness as artists, and second being that they were white. One of the angry letters speaking about the race issue came from journalist Harry Allen, Known as the Media Assassin, affiliated with the Hip-Hop group Public Enemy.  In his letter he decries how a black culture coming from the streets became popularized by these white men who did not participate in its development. In his opening line he lays out his fury for several reasons writing that, “Your decision to put a white rap crew on the cover of your magazine as SPIN’s front page presentation of hip-hop betrays 1) the inherent phoniness of your “alternative” stance, 2) your lack of facility with nascent black musical forms, and 3) your own racism.”

It should be noted that when the Beastie Boys met Rick Rubin he groomed them, as well as influenced their attitudes. Their crass jokes and attitudes were his influences along with their growing sense of excessiveness, homophobia and misogyny. Also, if you look at their earliest group photos you notice they are wearing the new black style. They donned do rags and addidas track suits, along with their DJ Rick Rubin. When they first performed for black audiences they were booed offstage. Russell Simmons, Rubin’s label partner, saw them and thought they were out of place, or to quote him “Assholes.” Once they stripped that and started wearing the jeans, NYC T-shirts and of course MCA’s leather jacket things changed. They should be viewed as serious artists no matter and this also shows how audiences crave the authentic, or at least their notion of the authentic, like blackface a century earlier.

The debate still rages, as it did when rapper Eminem and the Source magazine spoke of race and authenticity in Hip-Hop music, and the dispute between authenticity and the coopting of a black musical form keeps being tackled by many scholars, authors, and artists.

Music is intangible and Jews have managed to form their own niche of Hip Hop history. To this very day, as I’ve been writing on, Jewish MC’s are dropping music all over the internet, and in many other forms for future heads.

Keep on reading and Shabbat Shalom for now.

The Beastie Boys on the cover of Spin Magazine

Early Beastie Boys photo, note the cloths and do rags

NECRO!!! The Illest Jewish MC Alive…Eat You Kosher

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It creeps in slow, murdering your brains with the scary beat blaring in your ears, while his unmistakeable voice begins to penetrate. That’s how you feel every time you’re introduced to the next Necro track. Necro (Ron Raphael Braunstein) is one of the nastiest MC’s today including both style, skills and especially his lyrical content. Nasty in the fact that he uses such colorful language where you travel to the borders of terror and laughter. Necro invented the term “death rap” which describes his style of ultra-violent hip hop, setting himself apart from other genre labels created by the media and the corporate bullshit coming out the machine. His early LP’s, I Need Drugs and Gory Days still hold the weight of scorn for the world while using extremely explicit sexually laced lyrics. His first single I heard, back in the 1990’s on the local New Haven University radio station (BIG UPS WNHU!!!), blew my mind. “Get On Your Knees” samples Dione Warwick’s version of the Righteous Brother’s “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.” He brilliantly flips the concept of pleading with your lover to pleading for a good fuck ( and anything and everything in between), porno style. He carved out his own niche, and along with his brother Ill Bill and other contemporary Jewish MC’s he is the new brand of unabashed Jewish MC who identifies with the culture through his rapping.

His love for gore and porno isn’t the only reason I’m writing on the MC, but also his unabashed love of Judaism and his brash swipe against the Jewish nebish stereotype. Liking himself to the old school Jewish gangsters on his tracks “Tough Jew” and “Rabbi’s Holding Guns” Necro holds nothing back. He tells of being the tough Jew who also grew up in the tough streets, while also adding the brashness of the tough Israeli soldier persona. This is the new tough Jew MC braking the cultural boundaries and how Jews are showing their traditions through rap verses. Powerful, like his punches of deadly venom he barks at you while staying very respectful of the tradition’s core history and values.

Check out “Get On You Knees” from his LP Gory Day

My favorite, “Tough Jews/Rabbi’s Holding Guns” from his Murder, Murder, Kill, Kill EP: 

And, here’s a new joint from his newest LP with Hip Hop lyrical legend Kool G Rap: 

It’s The Beastie Boys!!! The first white boyz and Jews, to blowup!!!

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I wrote a short paper on the Beastie Boys and how they pioneered as the first white Hip Hop act to get large. They were also all Jewish guys from NYC who lived amongst the craziness which was the 1970’s NYC music scene. I’m dropping the intro just to wet your appetites until the next time. I’m also adding some of my favorites videos to show the scope and magnitude of the group.

RIP Adam Yauch (A/K/A/ MCA For Ever)

It’s the Beastie Boys

 

“Now here’s a little story I’ve got to tell
About three bad brothers you know so well
It started way back in history
With Adrock, M.C.A., and me – Mike D.”[1]

The lights begin to flash, thundering applause fill the club, Budweiser beer cans snap open almost in unison, attractive women scantily clad in cages gyrate, while the audience foams at the mouth. Then like a bat out of hell the Hip-Hop group the Beastie Boys, consisting of Mike D (Michael Diamond), MCA (Adam Yauch), and Ad-Rock (Adam Horovitz), hit the stage in full-fledged ferocity. This is what their standard stage show looked like in the mid-1980 when they were a newly discovered act. Rick Rubin, co-founder of Def Jam Recordings with Russell Simmons, signed them to the fledgling label and would promote these stage antics. However, since their formation in 1981, and to the present, they have constantly redefined their sound, image, and delivery. Enduring a long lasting career with many highs and lows, they still come out with albums that converge with the sounds of the past and styles of the future. These three Jewish white boys from New York City were the first white Hip-Hop group to break out within the traditionally black art form of Hip-Hop music. The analysis will cover their career as well as the many controversies they caused and accomplishments they achieved over the last almost thirty years. The focus will be on their career as well as being Jewish and white in a predominantly black medium, as well as their constant change over time. In their most recently released album, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two, they manage to maintain the original art form of Hip-Hop music by expanding it to the farthest regions of space.


[1] Beastie Boys, “Paul Revere,” Licensed to Ill, Def Jam Recordings, 1986.

No Sleep Till Brooklyn off their first album Licensed to Ill: http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=07Y0cy-nvAg