I’d Rather Be Mouth Fucked by Nazis Unconscious, Part 2

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As a Jew growing up, first in Israel and then in New Haven Connecticut, at times I felt inundated by the big H….The Holocaust. In Israel I was taught to always remember the people who were sent helplessly to their slaughter. However, at times the narrative was a bit scathing due to their macho society. Israelis, or the settlers who were in the land of Palestine before 1947, formed this rugged, mighty, chiselled out of a solid block of granite persona of the NEW JEW! This new Jew was to be the antithesis of that timid, nebbishy, hunchbacked, long bearded Rabbi looking Jew who stayed in the Shtetl. To this very day, in places ranging from neighborhoods in Brooklyn to neighborhoods in Israel, you still feel that the Ultra-Orthodox are also clinging to the last visages of the Shtetl. They still seem to carry the old world on their backs while maintaining a close mind, which to me is a form of a mental Shtetl, or better yet the ghettoization of the Jewish mind.

Jews who perform in the art form of rap music, and participate in Hip-Hop also carry this baggage at times. Many of these artists usually do not focus their art on a remembrance of the Holocaust. However, there are some who have, and there are some who use the Nazi imagery. The reason for Jewish use of Nazism can be two-fold. It can be a Jewish way of shaking the ghosts of the Nazis, while still addressing the horrors coming from the smoke stacks bellowing out heaps of human smoke, ripped from the flesh of Jewish men, women, and children. Our generation, me included as I write with my specific set of experiences, is conflicted when it comes to the topic. It can a nuisance, just as some of the Holocaust survivors were to the Zionists when they came to the land after the Second World War. For us it shows a period where weakness was the norm for Jews who were treated like sheep to the slaughter. History shows that this was not the case, as many Jews rebelled in their own way in order to maintain their dignity, religion and very soul. As I said, my generation can feel this way, while also feeling a sense of Holocaust “Fatigue” as it is termed. This means that people, both Jews and non-Jews, are getting sick and tired of being constantly pounded about the horrors of the Holocaust. I might sympathize, but then again we still have people, and worldly leaders, disavowing the Holocaust and its true impact of Jewish destruction. Certain Muslim narratives complain that Israel was a consolation for the Holocaust. They further argue,wearing their victim’s masks, that they had nothing to do with the horrors therefore they are not culpable. However, under close source studies you find plenty of Muslims who openly collaborated with the Nazis.

Another way my generation has addressed the issues of the Holocaust is through the use of rap music. Certain Jews use the grit and sheer rawness of Hip-Hop in order to tell their sordid tales of loss and hope. One fine example of this is a Jewish MC by the name of Remedy. Remedy, who’s real name is Ross Filler, is part of the Wu-Tang’s extended family hanging with the likes of Killa Army, Sonz of Man, Sheyheim the Rugged Child, and a few more acts associated with the Wu. Like Eazy-E, the RZA took a liking to Remedy and his content. This would lead to a track of his appearing on the first volume of the sampler, Wu-Tang: Killa Beezs – The Swarm, Volume 1. 

One of Remedy’s most popular songs to date is about the Holocaust titled “Never Again.”

This slogan has been used across the board by all Jews across the globe. Never again will we be victims, or allow others to persecute us because of our beliefs. The weight of Jewish history doesn’t allow us to forget all the massacres, exiles, blood libels, debates turned sour, inquisitions, pogroms, etc. etc. Enough is enough, and with the creation of Israel there came a source of toughness and pride, because nothing’s tougher than the Israeli Defense Forces.

The song opens with an elderly man calling all his fellow with the Savri Meranan (where all the men answer amen as they are about to sanctify the blessing over the Wine and Shabbat), and then into a salvo of pain. He then goes through the horrors and oppression that is personified by the Holocaust. He weaves the narrative of the torment that these people went through as they were thrown into ghettos, then led to the cramped trains, and sent to the concentration camps or worse, the death camps. The visuals are mixed with the images of the Nazis and the great films depicting the Nazi regime at its apex. He then follows the many, and very known, images of Jews being beaten, shoved, rounded up, shot, and any other film footage that further conveys the message.

It is interesting the way rap music’s powerful energy is laced with a Jewish message. This is a perfect example of another culture, or at least people from other cultures, ethnicities or religions taking up the Hip-Hop mantle. This combination of Jewish anger, frustration and angst is channeled in a historically Jewish way. This is but one fine example, as there are more, where a Jewish MC directly tackles the issue of the Holocaust using one of the best tools, Hip-Hop.

Peace,

#Remedy #NeverAgain

 

 

“Niggaz and Jews”

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I know what you might be thinking, “the nerve of this guy”!!! but hey I’m actually quoting a song by a crew you slept on. Who else would put a bunch of Krazy Kikes on the MIC? Eric “Eazy-E” Wright, that’s who. Eazy-E was quite a figure, being the one to hustle enough in order to start-up the legendary Ruthless Records label. Of course he needed some name recognition and a music business insider, so who should he get? An ex-record executive who hit it large in the 1970’s, but ended up snorting and drinking his youth away. Jerry Heller would be his partner, for good and bad, and they would spearhead the label that pushed one of the hardest rap groups of all time, N.W.A. (Niggaz Wit Attitudes). Their work was an unabashed view of life in Compton, California. Their first album, Straight Outta Compton, was a mixture of ire and rage towards police brutality and institutional racism. However, parts of the album were also laced with highly sexual content and dreams of dealing crack, making money, and having fun in the most nihilistic way possible.

After the release of the album Ice-Cube left the group due to financial discrepancies, and a war of words ensued. First N.W.A. came out swinging on their EP, 100 Miles and Runnin’, and on their second and much darker album Niggaz4Life. However, this is not about their beef. This is about the unabashed Jewish rap group that Eazy-E signed to his label. It’s ironic how a Jew rap group would be signed by an African-American record label owner. This is a markedable shift because in the history of the music business it was almost always the exact opposite.

Eazy-E was the perfect fit as he pushed N.W.A.’s gruff exterior right in front of their audiences. They were raw and unadulterated when they spoke of life in the streets, and its many vices. He signed a Jewish group to his Ruthless records label, and would push them to confront and bask in their identities. The group’s name was Blood of Abraham and the name gave it all away. They came from the source, claiming their name from the blood of the first Patriarch and the first real Jew.

Now, I know what most readers might be thinking. I’ve written about a few of the hot Jewish artists out there, as well as non-Jewish. But, isn’t there a quota where not all have the juice to sustain a rap career? I feel that if you look hard and deep into the past, as well as the present, you’ll find many of these unearthed gems. The specific gem I’m talking about today is this group’s only album on Ruthless titled Future Profits. The duo, consisting of Benyad (Benjamin Mor) and Mazik (David Saevitz), have some tight rhyme schemes that seem akin to a cross between Das Efx and Funkdobeist. Still, some of their tracks are heavy hitting, and the album has the same head nodding beats with the tight drums, which is a staple of early 1990’s hip hop production. The beats are mostly snippets and samples of Jazz along with the ubiquitous samples used at the time. They inject the biblical imagery along with the contemporary look at American Jews. Unlike the other Jewish rap groups of the time, The Beastie Boys and 3rd Bass, they projected their Judaism into their lyrics and visual presentation. One of the best tracks off the album is the title to my blog, “Niggaz and Jewz (Some say Kikes)” where they trade rhymes with Eazy-E.

It’s an irreverent call for African-American and Jewish-American unity. The call for unity is made under the threat of bigotry and violence. The samples used lump both groups together by an older racist voice. The voice, which is an authentic recording of the ranting and raving of a Ku Klux Klan member solidify their common enemy. It should be noted that the album was released in 1993 when relations, at least visible relations kept in the media and public eye, between the two groups were rather strained. Besides Eazy-E this track is also the first where Will.I.am appeared on.

They project their pride not only in their religion, but in its birthplace as well. Their video for the track “Stabbed by Steeple” where they walk through the old city of Jerusalem.

As they run through the ancient walls of the city the scenes are spliced with life in the city, running through the market (or Shuk), hanging with the locals and rummaging through the ruins. The song is interesting as it’s a vitriolic critique of Christianity’s incessant prosecution of Jews and the Jewish faith. Even more so they rip into the missionary life where they are plagued by Christians who want them to convert. It’s interesting how they cut into the visuals with Christian iconography, life strolling through the Shuk, while carrying their hip hop swagger.

They have many interesting songs, including a few more that are riddled with Jewish themes. Songs like “Father of Many Nations” address their roots, as well as the source of the Jewish faith. They don’t hold back as they attack the injustices in the world stoked by bigots, which is the main focus in their song “Stick to Your Own.” On the surface it seems odd that they would can for this type of solidarity and unity. However, the song attacks the white bigots, and they go out of their way to vocalize that the Jew is NOT the Man.

They even go after the southern mentality of the rednecks in their track “Southern Comfort.”

You should check it out because for all its fatal flaws it still holds the weight of a classic 1990’s hip hop treat. It’s nice to bob your head listening to the “Devils Get No Dap”

Just don’t serve them any pork, cause you might find yourself with no cloths on the border of the Gaza Strip, or Williamsburg, Brooklyn….which ever brings terror and dread at a faster pace.

 

Peace,

 

 

#Bloodof Abraham #Eazy-E #FutureProfits #NiggazandJews #

 

Hip Hop Lyrics in the Bible

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During my days in the crammed quarters of my Yeshiva I would follow my Rabbis arguments. Some were interesting as I felt in tune with the message. One example is the idea of balancing yourself with the spiritual and the mundane. Both can work together and compliment the spiritual depth of an act of worship. Take for example the recently celebrated Holy Day of Purim. One of the customs is to get drunk in order to confuse the senses as to good and evil. However, there is a note of moderation from the Rabbis, and Sages of future’s past, to avoid total inebriation, which could lead to a black out. These ideas I completely understood, study, and still try to master to this very day. However, there were plenty of topics that I completely disagreed with the Rabbis. The main example is music, and more specifically Hip Hop music. An Orthodox Jew should not listen to any secular music, unless it’s an instrumental piece. So they can go nuts listening to classical music, but no Beatles and Public Enemy. That’s the hardline as most Orthodox Jews do listen to secular music. Hip Hop was attacked even more as they spewed the same stereotypes I hear to this day in the United States. To the Rabbis the music was nothing less than garbage boiling over an old sewer grate. They broke it down to its most base and raw nature while criticizing its unadulterated emphasis on the baser things in life. I disagreed. I attempted to explain that Hip Hop is a large swath of land where the artists rap about so many different things under the sun. The funny thing is that there are plenty of rappers who have used biblical or biblically tinted rap schemes within their lyrics.

Specific rap lyrics keep dangling in my head, and once I started learning more Jewish texts it began to click. After looking over these texts from the Mishna and Gemarrah, which make up the Talmud, I was amazed at how my mind began to connect these sage’s words with Hip Hop lyrics. I guess my mind and soul were awakened by the new sages invigorating the old sages. A lot come in passing in various ways such as a random law or written notes by various Rabbis. Growing up listening to the classic rap albums from the late 1980’s and rolling into the mid-1990’s a pastiche of lyrics is jumbled inside my head. If Will Shortz could only make a crossword for Hip Hop! One fine example comes from the amazing debut album by Nas titled Illmatic.

The album opens with Nas and the fellas chatting about guns, life, and fun. The is happening as a banging beat is blaring over them, which was the opening credits scene from the film Wild Style. He then launches into his laudatory ode to the life of paranoia in the ghettos of the big city, “NY State of Mind.”

One of the most poignant lines is when he rhymes that “I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.” Amazing, but it become more amazing when I figured it into the Jewish mystical concept of the 1/60th rule. This idea basically means that 1/60th of most things (note how I’m being very general) have a potential for the great heights or the sickest lows. One is sleep, and how sleep is 1/60th of death. When I first heard the line I though he said that he never sleeps because it’s the cause of the death. Confusion of divine providence can go hand in hand, but Nas makes an interesting comparison. Sleeping being the cousin of death is as relative to sleep being 1/60th of death. To further the mysticism of this is to note that 1/60th of dreams are prophetic visions. This adds further into this mystical chasm of ideas, and it points to the fact that certain rappers are deeper than they lead on. This can all be conveyed through lyrics and concepts on their albums. Of course I should also mention the use of the term “prophet” which has been used such as by Jeru Da Damaja.

Jeru assumes the role of the prophet, and he acts just like the great prophets from the Tanach (That’s the Torah, Prophets, and Written parts of the prophets). Like past prophets he jumps around Brooklyn catching the negative aspects which poison the black communities. But he also rebukes the people, which is another important point. Prophets were not only seers of visions and premonitions of G-d’s will. They also take the word of G-d and rebuke the people in order to bring them closer to G-d. Apt I might say thanks to Jeru.

There are plenty more concepts such as the Notorious B.I.G’s motto and song “Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems.”

If I were you I’d fast forward past Mase and Puff right to the talent – Biggie.

In the song, and in he last interviews, he laments the pressures of becoming more wealthy and visible. This increases the jealousy, hatred, and envy which could lead to a speedy end. Unfortunately Biggie did not live much longer as his second album was released at the time of his murder. Still, this idea of increased wealth could consume you if you kept it unhinged is an age-old Talmudic idea. The more wealth one accumulates the more the evil inclination could get a hold of them.

I should also note that Biggie’s classic track “The Ten Crack Commandments” is reminiscent of another series of commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

There are plenty more examples of MC’s who use biblical verses in order to bolster their argument or concept. KRS-ONE used many biblical allusions in his songs, both with Boogie Down Productions and solo. One example is his song “Why is That” from the BDP album titled Ghetto Music: The Blueprint of Hip Hop.

The song is a powerful polemic condemning the white system, and how young blacks are taught to be like their white counterparts. However, whites do not need to learn how to be black. He attacks the white power system by using its founding stone, the Bible. More specifically he uses the Torah (What some consider the Old Testament, but I only got one!) to show how these early figures were probably dark-skinned. By starting with the genesis, that is the book of Genesis, he recounts the chapters dealing with the sons of Noach/Noah. Noach’s sons each started their own nations that were somewhat color coded in the language of ancient Hebrew. He points out that Shem was the father of all the Semitic races, negating the idea that they were white. The verse clearly reads that they are dark or black, so it contradicts centuries of white supremacy.

I know I wrote this in days of blog past, but the Beastie Boys transformed themselves into three biblical characters from the book of Daniel.

These three young Jews refused non-Jewish food given to them by the Babylonian ruler, as chronicled in the beginning of the book of Daniel. Due to their unwavering faith the ruler grew angry and ordered them killed. As they were tossed into a fiery furnace they were miraculously saved by G-d. Thank G-d for the Beastie Boys.

Another great example is the great and late Tupac and his song “So Many Tears.”

He starts the song with the famous opening lines from King David’s book of Psalms. Psalm 23 opens with the line of walking through the shadow of death. Tupac can be described as a morbid MC, but he had such a depth that also had a sense of spiritual growth. Although he might have been portrayed, and this is the media’s machine of the “watch me now news,” as a venal and rough exterior. He was far more complicated, and being a black man-made him more of a target.

Another interesting biblical reference made by a woman is Lauren Hill’s lyrics in her great song “Doo Wop (That Thing).”

The song is from her great debut album titled The Miseducation of Lauren Hill, and it’s a powerful song. The song speaks of sexual politics and the double standard that plagues women in society when it comes to “proper” sex roles. In the song she rhymes

“Talking out your neck, sayin’ you’re a Christian,

A Muslim, sleeping with the gin,

Now that was the sin that Jezebel in, 

Who you goin’ tell when the repercussions spin,

Showing off your ass cause you’re thinking it’s a trend.”

Lauren likens herself to Jezebel, and how she brought the worship of Baal (meaning she brought idol worship to the Jewish people). In the Jewish tradition she is considered an evil woman who would give up her husband and children for power. In the Christian world, and more so with popular culture representations of black women, uses the name as a lascivious woman with insatiable sexual appetites. In the American south, mostly after the Civil War, these depictions of black women were lumped into two categories. They were either Jezebels or they were asexual women who were called mammies. It’s a poignant example of using a biblical reference to point out irregularities and contradictions in American society.

Drake does use biblical references, but he usually sticks to Jewish kitsch. Another MC who blew up recently, but has been in the game for a minute, and used a biblical allusion is Pusha T. Pusha T along with his brother No Malice made up the group the Clipse, who dropped solid music. Pusha recently signed with Kanye West’s GOOD Music label. He then dropped a song vehemently ripping Drake apart lyrically. Although the song as little when it comes to actual biblical allusions it’s all in the title. The song titled “Exodus 23:1” is a straight lyrical beat down on one of the most popular MC’s nowadays.

It’s very interesting when a biblical verse goes viral, but that’s exactly what happened. Pusha T doesn’t hold back by chiding the MC questioning his hip hop authenticity to his inner core. What’s interesting is what the actual verse reads. In the book of Exodus, chapter 23, verse 1 it reads “Do not accept false report, do not extend your hand with the wicked to be a venal witness.” Now, this is from a Jewish source so the Christian and Muslim (if there is one) interpretations might be a little different. The great Jewish sage Rashi says that “It is forbidden to believe unverified gossip about another person. It not only speaks of an individual, but of a judge who must act as impartial as possible. Now, I have no idea how Pusha saw it because it seems that he is propagating the very item the verse abhors. I’m not sure if the things said about Drake are verifiable, but he is adding to this uncertainty of truth. The Torah is the antithesis of that, hence it is the Truth.

So, make sure to let your Rabbis know, and if they don’t know now they know…….Jews.

Peace

#Torahlyrics #Biblical lyrics #Nas #NotoriousBIG       #JeruDaDamaja #BDP #KRS-ONE #Tupac #BeastieBoys #PushaT #LaurenHill

Masks and Disguises: A Musical note on Purim

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This weekend, starting at the period of nightfall on Saturday night until sunset Sunday, will mark the magnificent Jewish Holy Day of Purim. This is one of the biggest celebrations of happiness as we recount the fact that the Jews of Persia, as well as the net of the world-wide Jewish community at the time, survived annihilation. The Holy Day divines many sparks of inner joy, as well as dropping any judgement. This is one of the sole occasions where a Jew cannot openly scrutinize a person who is begging for money. They have to just give with a wide smile and an open heart. One of the Mitzvah’s of the Holy Day is giving gifts to the poor, as well as to others in the guise of what we call Mishloach Manot. There are also duties that force us to cloud our view of reality, soaking it with a fine layer of drink.

This is a Purim parade in Tel-Aviv, Israel. Circa, the past.

One of the Mizvot that all my non-Jewish friends remember is the one on Purim. They all recount the concept that Jews are obligated to reach a state where they cannot distinguish between the good of Mordechai (The righteous Jew in the Megillah besides Esther) and the evil of Haman (The infamous bad guy who we trace right back to the seed of all that is to be spat out, Amalek). So, many Jews practice this art by drinking until they pass out, or get so shlitzed that they reach that level. Unfortunately when you have teenagers and young adults imbibe such amounts, and early in the day, they become rather loaded. I’ve seen many teens in Jerusalem step to me with those blood-shot eyes, only to stumble off to their beds, and this was only mid-day on Sunday, lightweights. However, you are not required to drink. Many wise men, a/k/a/ teetotalers, told me that they opt to literally sleep it off. Also, many Rabbis and Bachurim told me of past embarrassment that led them to sleep instead of drink. On my trip to Poland, taken years ago, a very bright Brit told me of his moment of oy that led him to sleep. He was younger and on Purim he packed in a few with his friends. He was very inebriated and decided to walk into the place of study or the Beit Midrash. In the Beit Midrash he recalled encountering a nice little old man. He then proceeded to sit right next to him. He then gently raised his hand and began to pet the head of the old man. The story concluded with the fact that this little old man ended up being the Rosh Yeshiva or Head of his entire Yeshiva. He was never able to look into his eyes, let alone his direction in the hallway, ever since.

Another visual Mitzvah that we see during Purim is the wearing of masks, costumes, and a whole array of disguises. I run the gamut, and one of my favorites was the one I wore at Yeshiva. I wore overalls, a straw hat, and a shirt with the Brooklyn Dodgers logo. Guess who? Old McDonald!!! Don’t get it twisted cause the song “Old McDonald Had a Farm…..” came from Brooklyn. There’s some history for ya. Masks are interesting as they are supposed to obscure the real for the unreal and unknown. There are many reasons as to why we wear disguises during Purim. One reason cites the fact that our hero Mordechai was given the king’s clothing to wear, hence his own form of elaborate costume. Others, and I enjoy this reason, cite the concept that the Jews were saved due to the invisible hand of G-d. There were hidden miracles, which occurred as opposed to others such as the Splitting of the Sea for Pesach. The hidden and invisible can also work with our relationship with G-d. We shouldn’t be over reliant on miracles and events that seem out of the normal in nature. The hidden aspect of G-d is reinforced with the fact that G-d is not mentioned at all in the Megillah of Esther. This cosmic streams and waves of invisibility is a building block of faith.

There are many examples in music with the use of masks and disguises. We can live with a person, be intimate and chat until the morning hours. But, we cannot know the inner core because we don’t always need Purim to tear off the mask. It can cause a sense of confusion as the Who laid out in their song “Disguises.”

This menacing low tempo song drags, just like the background sounds in the song. “I think it’s you, but I can’t be sure” They belt as they go through a confusing spell where they can’t find the real.

Another favorite is a song by the same name by the amazing group the Minutemen.

This pseudo-punk band who churned out this classic one minute masterpieces also tackled disguises. The crux of the song really hits with the last quick few lines of the verse. This is where he states that the evil of fascism and how it wears many disguises.

In the realm of rap music we all know that the best reference point is the mystical character/MC/world traveller/subversive by the name of DOOM. Danger Doom’s “The Mask” gives you the lowdown, but you can see him don the mask in all his videos. This song is far more golden as Ghostface Killah blesses the mic speaking on the obscurity of the mask.

MF Doom seemed to come out of nowhere, even though he was part of a rap group with his brother. Unfortunately, his brother passed and he journeyed to the far reaches of his mind. What came out was MF Doom and this identity of a hidden face and a bizarre yet catchy rhyme style. This is one of his earliest, and yes his got that Gladiator style mask.

Ironically it seems that Daft Punk took to this as well by being visibly masked. They are obscuring their images as if their music is their true face, which is up to us the mighty listeners.

Another great example of wearing the mask of reality is brought to you by the Fugees. They speak of the nefarious elements that scope their world everyday. They say it plain in the hook saying “the M to the A to the S to the K, put the mask on the face just to make the next day.”

It should also be noted that Ed Piskor made this connection, where the credit is fully due to him for hashing out this idea, between comics and Hip Hop culture. He points out to the many alter egos of the many artists including their transformations, thanks to the cool costumes. So, people like Joseph Simmons, Darryl McDaniels, Daniel Dumile, Richard Walters, Carlton Ridenhour, Norman Rodgers, and William Drayton will don their costumes for Purim. Now they are Run-DMC, MF Doom, Slick Rick, and Public Enemy.

Wether you’re wearing a mask, or not, remember to enjoy because it’s all hidden. There is potential within these hidden compartments, and they should be explored. Purim is considered one of the most mystical Holy Days, so we should further the mystic and wash it down with some good Bourbon, or what ever you choose to wet the belly.

Happy Purim Yo!!!

#Purim #TheWho #TheMinuteMen #TheFugees #MFDoom #DaftPunk #EdPiskor

One of the Best Hip Hop Albums you Never Heard: Dispatches Part 1

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You meet the weirdest, most interesting types when attending a Ba’al Tshuva Yeshiva. Just to be clear with all you non-Yeshivish peeps out there, the term literally means in Hebrew the Master of Return or repentance. These Yishivas are strewn all across the world for Jews like myself who were re-sparked by our inner sun spots of spirituality. My Yeshiva, Aish HaTorah – which brings either waves of love and joy or hate and terror, had quite a mixture of far out wayward souls. These souls all congregated in one of the holiest places in the universe, the Old City of Jerusalem. I had many interesting late night discussions about our ideas, beliefs, and interests.

Being an uppity Brooklynite, with a hint of an Israeli ego, I immediately separated the men from the boys. I wanted to see what kind of music some of these Jewish souls listened to. Being a big hip-hop head made me far more convinced of the music’s power, and its dominance across the globe. Most of these wayward Bachurim (students in Yeshiva speak) were not as privy to the art form of hip-hop, and its many rap music progenitors. One day I sparked up a conversation with a guy who was my age who hailed from the West Coast. Once I started with the Stones Throw records list he hooked right onto the conversation. Apparently I not only met a knowledgable soul who was well versed in hip-hop, he was also an MC. Not only was he an MC, he was down with some of the most talented MC’s ever to bless the microphone. He was down with Ryu, Takbir, DJ Cheapshot, and Vin Skully. You might not be familiar with the names, especially if you’re younger or never had your ear to the underground, but this is Styles of Beyond. “You know them?” I blurted out in shock and amazement. “Yeah, I also recorded some stuff with them.” He had me at MC, but it amazed me how speaking with Benny Fine in Jerusalem was an indictor of the small world of the hip-hop community.

When hip-hop began to rise, like the vulture devouring all these young teeny souls in its conquest, in the markets a burgeoning underground began to bubble. Proceeding the deaths of the two legends, Tupac and Biggie, rap music began to reach new heights in many ways. Sales began to eclipse past numbers, as rap music began to infringe on the pop market. Rap music began to become synonymous with pop music. Due to this meteoric rise, many mainstream artists began to brandish a formulaic style of rap, which remains intact to this day. This was the dawn of the era of bitches and bikini clad women surrounding the rapper as he (it’s usually a man) smokes hella fine bud, counts his stacks of chedder (money), and raps about it on his yacht. This marked the death knell for me and my friends. No longer will rap music be relegated to a niche market. Now its a world market, and everyone’s in on the caper.

In 1997 I was knee deep into the underground with my buddies, as we trolled the new and unheard sounds in the indie hip hop world. Many monumental albums were released, and not all by prominent artists. Many of these artists we don’t hear from today, and this is my way of yelling it out, loud and proud. Listen up yo, cause this is some classic material that needs to be unearthed and re-heard. Enter the Styles……Of……Beyond!!!

Enter the mist, as a sample of a man’s voice comes in saying…”Thank you brothers and sisters……we have something hip that we want to present to you…..you’ve been listening to our music…..music……music” and then the cuts come in with precision. The DJ cuts deep as the waves of beautiful sounds come in and out of the headphones. The wave hits the rocks with a blissful violin sound, and then it tapers as the man says…..”chill,” and……STOP! And then…….BEYOND!!!

Styles of Beyond are an indie group hailing from the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, California. It should be noted that by the late 1990’s some of the best, and what most scholars should consider, and finest underground hip-hop music came from the West Coast. I don’t play, being a Brooklynite at heart. However, they have been shitted on for so long, due to the mythical supremacy of New York City hip-hop. Styles of Beyond, like the other crews at the time, were one of those groups who gave us an album with amazingly futuristic, yet also harking back to the old school, hip-hop music. The crew consists of two MC’s, Ryu (Ryan Patrick Maginn), and Takbir (Bashir), their stellar DJ Cheapshot (Colton Raisin Fisher), and Vin Skully (Jason Rabinowitz, hence the Jewish connection for today). Tak and Ryu are amazingly proficient with their elaborate rhyme schemes, which is evident throughout their work. They also enlisted some of the best West Coast DJ’s for their genius debut album, 2000 Fold. This album is one of those classics that you never heard, but should. However, look online as the record shops are closing their shutters for the online and very impersonal market.

The first time I heard 2000 Fold my mind was blown away, and then brought back into newer fragments. The beats were so sleek and new, yet the hard thuds of the drum beats kept it a bit dusty with flavor.It’s one of those future’s past hip-hop classics teeming with an old/new feel. There are many examples such as the precise cuts provided by DJ Cheapshop, and his many gifted guest stars. One of the best aspects that makes this a classic is the way the balance is struck in such a harmonious fashion. There are tracks that we consider bangers with a solid backbeat racing along with the lyrics of fury. Tracks like the opener “Styles of Beyond (Style Warz),” “Dangerous Minds,” “Back it Up,” and “Killer Instinct” are fine examples of fine tuned beats with a quick fiery delivery by these two fine tuned MC’s. Each track has this feel of urgency as it runs through the track as DJ Cheapshot adds the cuts that flow oh so well on the beat.

However, the balance is struck with songs that counter balance that sense of breath taking speed. They brandish their skills as well by showing us that they can also rock a tight rhyme over a slow beat. Songs like “Hollograms,” Winnetka Exit,” “Survival Tactics,” and “2000 Fold” are a bit slower paced, with the beat snapping a bit slower on time, but that doesn’t stop them from shining.

There is also a sense of the old to the new, and the new to the old on this album. DJ’s get a prominent role right next to the MC’s as the cuts are visibly present. Besides their talented crew DJ, the crew also invited some top notch guests to help solidify this harking back to the golden days of hip-hop. DJ Rhettmatic blesses the tables on two joints, Divine Styler the gifted Allah Supreme MC blesses the MIC, and other guests including Mike Shinoda who produced the track “Marco Polo” with guest MC 007. There’s even a small shout out to beat boxing in the guise of a short snippet provided by the virtuoso, Click Tha Supah Latin!

Listen up everybody, cause this is the bottom line. I’m writing on this because we all have those long lost hip-hop classic that other’s haven’t heard yet. We should push and pay it forward cause hip-hop’s running this game. Also, this album is an historical artifact that shouldn’t be lost in the sands of time. So go forth and spread the gospel, but make sure to listen to the album before you open your mouth.

Peace

#StylesOfBeyond #2000Fold #Ryu #Takbir #VinSkully #DJCheapshot #BennyFine

The Best Jewish Blues Album You’ll Ever Hear

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The open Highways and byways of the United States stretch far into the furthest regions of our minds, bodies, and souls. It’s amazing how these abandoned roads, sitting desolate, and begging to be treaded on one last time, harken us back for another round. The American story has been told by its many inhabitants, but the outsider from the inside has been one of the loudest voices. These outsiders, and in this case I’m speaking of the Jews, attempted to tread these very roads that the legendary blues men walked before. Their feet cracked, and caked with dust, walking down the line with a guitar slung over their shoulders. These stories have been told time and again, but the best Jewish interpretation of this comes from everyone’s favorite Jewish Troubadour. His highway, and all of our American made highway, was Highway 61 Revisited.

Highway 61 in the United States carries myths and legends, yet it  is still a tangible landmark for all who want to relate to the spread of American music. In Dylan’s sordid memoir titled Chronicles, Volume 1 he writes that “Highway 61, the main thoroughfare of the country blues, begins about where I began. I always felt like I’d started on it, always had been on it and could go anywhere, even down in to the deep Delta country. It was the same road, full of the same contradictions, the same one-horse towns, the same spiritual ancestors … It was my place in the universe, always felt like it was in my blood.” The highway had a very significant role in Dylan’s maturity and evolution as a musician in his early days growing up in Duluth. Highway 61 stretched through Duluth, and St. Paul all the way down to the Fabled Mississippi Delta where historians and ghosts claim the genesis of the Blues. Many notable historic blues men and women began their lives there, and many also saw their demise. Muddy Waters, Son House, Elvis Presley, and Charley Patton were all born near the fabled route. The amazing queen of the blues, Bessie Smith, died on the highway after sustaining serious injuries from an automobile accident. Let us also not forget that this is the route that existed on two planes of existence where Robert Johnson met and bargained with the devil. The story goes that he was given great talent as a blues musician, but the devil came to collect earlier than expected.

Highway 61 has also been the subject of various blues songs including Roosevelt Sykes’ “Highway 61 Blues” from 1932, and Mississippi Fred McDowell’s “61 Highway” from 1964.

Bob Dylan grew amidst this mixture of love and hurt, myth and legend, grime and dirt spilling out of his soul and onto pieces of paper. His career has an interesting trajectory as a Jewish lad growing up in the mid-West and coming of age in the 1950’s. This was the time when Jews were becoming more accepted in the social landscape of the WASPish good old boys clubs. Jews began to thrive in various professions that were closed to them before, and amongst other things could live in non-Jewish neighborhoods. This meant that they assimilated into the quintessential Americanized model of life, cut from the same cloth as Uncle Sam, and rock solid like the Alamo. The parents were glad, but their kids were far from it. They were thrown into this new vast wasteland of a mundane sterile life. What better way to tap their sorrows and pain than through the blues.

The scholar Jon Stratton wrote on this in his magnificent work titled Jews, Race, and Popular Music. He notes that Jews played a large part in the Brill Building sound of short and sweet pop tunes for the teenagers. However, he argues that by the 1960’s Jewish men “expressed their disillusion by turning away from white popular music and towards African-American electric blues.” Many of these men formed and/or joined bands churning out an electrified monster of blues songs from days past, lost but not forgotten. Bands like The Electric Flag, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Blues Project, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Canned Heat played this type of music. All these band, and many more, all had Jewish members who galvanized the blues and attempted to feel the pain of days past.

Bob Dylan began with protest songs, growing out of the folk scene in Greenwich Village in Manhattan. However, he began to feel out of place. His inner core was tired of the usual sound of the man who stood for us. It was time to step out of his shadow and reform into a new entity of Jewish electric blues.

Bob Dylan solidified the change with his performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Fest. Like the wonderful and very underrated pseudo-bizarro bio pic, I’m Not There, the audience was hit with a barrage of sonic bullets. He started his set with a few familiar acoustic songs, but he then changed equipment and brought out his full band. Interestingly, it seems like there are many stories with regards to the reactions from the audience. Some booed, some gazed in amazement, some jaws dropped, and certain folk heroes warned of chopping through the sound with an axe. Stratton’s interpretation is different as he explains that the crowd’s largest problem with the music was that it sounded too “black.”

The recording sessions for what would become the magnum opus that is Highway 61 Revisited were done before and after the Newport Folk Fest performance. In that span of time he managed to gather a bunch of accomplished African-American musicians, including the great producer Tom Wilson, along with some bluesy Jews. Al Kooper’s fresh face stepped in as he thought he could sit in and play guitar on a session or song. His hopes were quickly dashed as Mike Bloomfield ( of the group the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, which played raw Chicago blues and consisted of blacks and Jews) opened up his salvo of slickness on the guitar.

Here’s a live performance with his group Electric Flag at the Monterey Festival:

You can hear his work through out the album as Dylan wails out the blues, and Mike belts out the riffs, screeching for attention with such precision. Kooper would end up playing organ on the legendary “Like a Rolling Stone.” Stratton explains that this song “was triggered by Dylan’s emotional reaction to Jewish disillusion with the promises of white American society coupled with the growing cultural awareness of what was coming to be known as the Holocaust.” Remember that before the 1960 trial of Adolph Eichmann few people, Jews and non-Jews across the globe, spoke openly about this dark death past.

Here’s a live rendition with the Band

There were other Jewish motifs and subtle topics strewn across the album. One fine example is the song that captured the title of the album, and the legendary highway I wrote about earlier. “Highway 61 Revisited” hits the floor runnig with an opening guitar riff and the sounds of an accompanying kazoo. It starts with a crossover of dimensions just like the tale of Robert Johnson’s experience on Highway 61. The tale intertwines the story of the binding of Isaac, from the first book of the Torah, with the contemporary view of the killing being done on highway 61. Also, it should be noted that in the Torah G-d tells Abraham to do the bid as a test of faith. However, Dylan turns Abraham into the confused and dumbfounded huckster who’s being taken for a ride. But G-d doesn’t let him off telling him that “if you see me you better run.” Abraham then asks “where do you want this killing done, G-d said down Highway 61!” Whoooommm. It definitely adds more of that rugged Dylan charm to the age old book that drives us and instructs us on life.