My Jews Be Fightin’

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This immortal line was made famous, and used more than once, by Russell Simmons about his cohorts at Def Jam Recordings beefing it out. The main characters behind the beef were Jews, in one case he was speaking of Rick Rubin and Lyor Cohen’s beefing. This was basically a power move made by the unknown Cohen in the Def Jam family, while Rubin was frustrated while looking for a way out.

Let us zoom far out of this moment of micro-history and veer to the bigger picture. The words Russell was intimating mean a lot, especially with regards to African-Americans’ perceptions of Jews. In my unwavering research through the many rap lyrics, made by both Jews and non-Jews, I found a few common threads. Unfortunately, African-Americans have lumped Jews into the perceived stereotypical categories, but this is not at all universal. Like the multifaceted and multi-various ways Jews view themselves within their own identity, African-Americans are shaped by many influences with regards to their perceptions of Jews. Hip-Hop is a pure form of expression, so it’s natural to investigate these many artists and their words. So, let the borthas speak!!!

Let us start where it really hurts, the bank account. The old world notion that Jews are greedy goes all the way back to the Middle Ages in Western Europe. Jews were identified with money due to their roles as local tax collectors. They were chosen by Christians to do this job due to the sin of usury. Usury is when you borrow money, while having to pay it back with interest. The dynamic would be advantageous to the Christians because when people could not pay, they usually took out their grievances, violently, on their Jewish tax collectors. Kings of kingdoms in areas such as France, England, and Spain to name a few kicked out their Jews in order to avoid payment. This concept of Jewish frugality, or even the more common greediness, remains prevalent as various people personalized their stereotypes. Unfortunately, the stereotype has prevailed and remains in part thanks to the rappers who make it all possible.

 

There are many examples of the use of frugality like Kanye West’s “Rock the Mic Freestyle” where he raps that “Keep me cool, No dimes but baby here go the family jewels, I’m tight with my doe like my family Jews, Uh,” Interesting how he flips the idea with regards to his genatelia, but here he’s tight with money like his family Jews, or probably Jews he’s acquianted with. Jay Z has dropped numerous Jew-shout outs for his numerous Jewish businessmen. On his track “This Can’t Be Life” he rhymes that, “I was born to do it, born to make bomb music, I flow tight like I was born Jewish.” Tight-wad Jews holding their wallets close, but Jay Z give them honest credit as well.

Interestingly enough Drake came back at Jay-Z, or actually he responds in a joking manner on his track “Still Drake,” using the beat from Dr. Dre’s track “Still Dre.” Drake rhymes that, “I was born to do it, born to make bomb music, I flow tight like I was born Jewish, Well, actually I was born Jewish.”

Busta Rhymes belted out on his track “Pass the Courvoisier, Part 1” from his album The Genesis that, “We holdin’ Jewish money now, down to the credit card, different from yours.” It is different as his international call for holding Jewish currency, which is Shekels in Hebrew, but he hasn’t dealt with Arab money yet.

There are plenty more, but this last one I realized has caused more ire, as well as confusion. The Clipse, comprising of Pusha T and his brother No Malice, were a powerhouse releasing three strong albums that were Neptune/Pharrel riddled with amazing beats and introspective lyrics of the Virginia crack game. On one of their tracks, from their Hell Hath No Fury album, they talk about cooking cocaine in pyrex cookware. However, Malice decided to use this frugal Jewish stereotype by rhyming that, “It cooks to a tight wad, the pyrex is Jewish.” Bizarre place of the term, yet it came to him and he used the verse.

Another very popular stereotype is the image of the Jewish lawyer. This image is strewn through out many rap lyrics as these artists thank, at times jokingly, their Jewish lawyers.

There are many examples of this, used by both Jewish and non-Jewish rappers, which exploits the fact that Jews are extremely overrepresented in the judicial business. Jay Z makes sure to thank his lawyer, in this case in the guise of Murray Richman who defended Jay Z’s for allegedly stabbing record executive Lance “Un” Rivera in 1999. On his track “No Hook” he makes this clear when he rhymes that, “Had to get some Chollah bread so you can holla back, and holla, my Jewish lawyer too enjoyed the fruit of letting my cash stack.”

Styles P made the reference to the top skills of Jewish lawyers and how a “Good Jewish lawyer turn a ten to a two-to-four.” On this track, titled “Da 80’s” he’s clarifying the specific ways that these “Jewish” lawyers can help a common rapper, who is usually a black male, from doing a full bid in prison. Rick Ross was confident in this as well when he rapped that “I’ll be out tomorrow, my lawyer’s Jewish,” on the remix to “Work.”

There are plenty of these Jewish lawyer images strewn throughout rap music, but it’s not only made by non-Jewish rappers. There are a few examples of Jewish rappers who use this stereotype in order to flip the concept on its head. On the amazingly debut album by the group Run the Jewels, consisting of Killer Mike (an African-American from the south), and El-P (a Jew from Brooklyn), by the same name. On the track “DDFH” Killer Mike alludes to this stereotype by rhyming “cause we smoke sour to deal with the paranoia, that they charge by the hour, can’t hire the Jewish lawyer.” This is a spin on the earlier examples as Mike laments the fact that he’s too poor to hire the top lawyers, who are Jewish. He solidifies it further by continuing the his rhyme with “Cause if you ain’t Jigga or Puff you doin’ time, and even then you might get ten, word to Shyne.” He’s referencing Jay-Z by saying Jigga, and P. Diddy by saying Puff. He also closes out the rhyme by noting that the rapper Shyne, who was signed with P. Diddy’s Bad Boy label, who did a ten year bid in prison for gun possession. It should also be noted, as a funny twist of faith, that while in jail Shyne converted, and is currently a practicing Orthodox Jew.

Drake has also used this reference, and as I noted earlier he is a proud Jew as noted through his music. Other Jewish rappers have used it in a more comedic fashion, like the uncanny slipity slop of Action Bronson. Bronson is very interesting as he intertwines the humor, which is crass, with cooking references, as he’s a skilled chef as well. One great example is his bio/cooking recipes on the track “Steve Wynn” where he rhymes that “We’re summer seam G’s, steamed red snapper – Vietnamese, catch a case, get a Jewish lawyer, beat it with cheese.”

In a great freestyle session along with other MC’s he rips it, making sure to send out the Jewish undertone of never trusting the Goyim. The freestyle, from the Industry Shakedown Radio show check out his lyrics, as he belts out on the top of the track that, “To keep it all Kosher, I’m strictly Jewish on the lawyer, When it comes to my freedom, I can’t trust it to a goyim.” Enough Said.

These are a few examples of these lingering stereotypes, as well as the complex deconstruction of them in rap music. This is complicated as the net can be spread wide when discussing the issue of Jewish imagery in non-Jewish rapper’s lyrics. Next time around I’ll show more of them, and both the good and the very bad aspects of what they could lead to or mean in the greater culture.

 

 

The Feast of Passover and the Music

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I know that we are all feeling the exodus, as our sandals are picking up the desert sand, as we wade through the wadis, trudging along for a brighter side of freedom. Just like the slaves in the American south, the Jews who left made sure to raise their heads up in prayer, awe, and of course through song!!! The Holy Day of Passover is quite a feat of faith, lasting a bit over a week (In Israel we only do one Seder, but outside of Israel we still stick to the “custom” of keeping two days of Passover), as our digestive tracts call out in agony….”No more Matzah please.” I love the time of year as well as the food is amazing, yet they don’t call Matzah the bread of affliction for nothing.

Passover is one of the Jewish Holy Days, including Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, where most Jews of all stripes celebrate. American Jews who assimilate still celebrate in their own way the Passover exodus, and the story which unfolds. However, the story is great but the night is also filled with song. Some of my fondest memories hark back to those days at my uncle and aunt’s place in the West Rock neighborhood of New Haven, Connecticut. New Haven was quite the slice of Americana life, as we all congregated around this holy table along with our many friends and relatives. My uncle Josh, a talented and amazing Chazzan/Cantor, was the highlight as we all corralled around him singing the choruses, beckoning for him to sing lead. He would belt out these majestical pitches invoking all the souls and Jewish spirits of the past, present and future. But, besides his singing I decided to take an analytical look at the use of Passover in popular song. Here’s what I can dish to you, as long as its Kasher L’Pesach (Kosher for Passover).

We can admire a lovely Jamaican Reggae sound from the great group the Congos. In their song “Feast of The Passover” they hark to the heights of Mount Sinai and the collective meeting “up on the mountain.”

The song was originally recorded for their 1977 album, Blood & Fire, and is given an extra credit twist of a spiritual dimension in that it was produced by the ingenious Shaman of Reggae Music, Lee “Scratch” Perry. The song ignites the combination of the exodus with the feast, which is the center piece of the Holy Day among other great signs coming from the mountain top. Pesach with a Rastafari slant, seeing us blaze our trails through pure smoke, climbing higher on the spiritual ladder.

Taking a completely different turn on the concept of the Holy Day comes from one of the darkest bands. Joy Division was named after the comfort women who cavorted with the Nazi soldiers, stationed far away from their fraulines. Undoubtably they would take a contorted approach to Passover, on their song “Passover.”

It is very tough in fully explaining the lyrics, or most lyrics for that matter, of the highly talented yet very fragile lead singer, Ian Curtis. Curtis, who hung himself not long after the release of their first album, was a tortured soul, yet his words could spurn such thought and unease in our lives. The closing line to the song invoke a sense of hopelessness, yet it also longs for a change. He sings in the last part that,

“This is the crisis I knew had to come,
 Destroying the balance I’d kept,
 Turning around to the next set of lives,
 Wondering what will come next.”

To me this means that the Jews, and the Egyptians, who felt safe in the new culture were too comfortable. Hence, the new souls (Jews) will usher themselves for a new future.

Now I want to name drop some MC’s in the rap game who drop some lines which make me feel Passover-Fresh Yo!!! Let’s check this dude Fonz-E Mak and his Passover dropping in his song “Bad Day.”

He kicks it in right quick, spitting the bars in the very start of the track. He belts it out at the top of the track, yelling out…

“Ding,Ding the bell rings so the class over,

Been getting love for the past eight days,

By some chicks who were Jews so imma assume it was Passover.”

Wether it’s spiritual, or in the case far from it, it’s still interesting how African-Americans are still very knowledgeable of Jewish Holy Days.

Another example, and more to the root of the PAssover story, is a song by Dre Murray titled “Maybe One Day.”

The song’s rap, along with the silky smooth chorus sung by Christon Gray, tries to passionately call for an optimistic outlook on life. What if one day we could all get along? Sounds nice, but my main concern is with the Passover imagery he uses in the song. In the first verse he speak of this by rapping that,

“I Feel it coming in the air,

Everybody stay down,

Maybe it’ll Passover us and finally skip town,

Blood on the door.”

This is a direct reference to the Angel of Death passing over the Jews’ houses, slaying every first born of Egypt, during the darkness of the tenth and last plague to hit Egypt like a ton. It should be noted that his last line speaking of “Blood on the door” means that he in fact had done what the Jews had, therefore he is safe from the fiery sword of death. Striking, and passionate, the song is interesting in its own write.

Another passing reference is used by the legendary dup of Pete Rock & CL smooth, on their song titled “All Souled Out,” from the same named album.

Although this is more of a throw away line, CL still makes sure to shout out the festivities, although don’t get the bread part twisted. He raps that we should “Share the bread and wine like the Passover.” Although we can’t eat bread, we make sure to keep it gully with plenty of wine and plenty of Matzah. Shout out to Soul Brother #1!!!

There are other fun ditties of Passover joy, such as from the Texas-based indie rock group The Black Angels. Their debut album titled Passover has quite an interesting version of the song “Passover.”

Anyway, this is just a snippet for today as I rest my soul, and my vocal chords, and celebrate the Passover Sabbath.

Peace and happy Holy Days,

 

#Passover #TheCongos #JoyDivision #Fonz-EMak #DreMurray #PeteRock&CLSmooth #TheBlackAngels

 

 

 

 

 

My Main Jew Morris!!!

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You find the most interesting stories in the newspapers. I usually scroll through the usual scrap heap checking out the scoops of the day, Russia raping the world, the US raping the world, Muslims killing each other, voting across the prairies of India, and other nonsensical bullshit, and entertainment. Today, I stumbled upon an interesting article in the New York Times about Al Sharpton’s role as an informant for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Heaven forbid that such a pillar of MSNBC would be scrutinized for his early days as the track suit clad music business insider. But, there is some truth to this matter as certain books have acknowledged. Sharpton was actually part of a sting, whether he knew or not, hovering over one of the most corrupt music men in the business. He was involved in recording an associate of his by the name of Joe Robinson, who owed Morris Levy. Joe Robinson was Sylvia Robinson’s husband, and the co-owner of a small rap music label, Sugar Hill Records. Levy provided the money for the first powerhouse Hip-Hop record label. If the seed money wasn’t planted the history of recorded rap music would be very different. If there were only Jews like Morris Levy in the world today, things might be going a bit smoother.

Morris Levy was mentioned in the article as an accomplice with organized crime. Levy and the mob were working together. The mob would use his record companies, especially Roulette Records, in order to have spare cash in hand. Levy, for all his corruption and extortion deserves credit. The credit comes from the fact that he was responsible for funding many lucrative music labels and artists. Levy owned, and at times fully operated, many record labels and companies throughout his life including Buddah, Domino Records, Kama Sutra, Roulette, and many more. He was the epitome of the image of the stereotypical thieving Jew. He is known to have taken credit for songs that he had no input on what so ever. He allegedly would white out the names of the rightful authors of songs, and place his name instead. This meant that he substituted his name to file with the United States Copyright Office, thereby stealing royalties from the  artists. In a specific law suit representatives for artists like Dr. John, the Meters, Art Neville, and Aaron Neville claimed that they were owed for lost dues. At his mighty peal Levy owned record pressing pants, tape-duplicating plants, a distribution company, and a New England music store chain that I remember oh so well by the name of Strawberries. The most important label Levy funded was the first real Hip-Hop music label, Sugar Hill Records.

Sugar Hill Records was the idea of Sylvia Robinson who wanted to profit from the new rap scene. Aided by her husband Joe they linked up with Levy through a mutual friend by the name of Jules Rifkind. Jules Rifkind had a history with Levy through his father Harry Rifkind. Harry was a boxer in his youth, until he gave it up and started to work for Levy. He was hired to manage Levy’s nightclubs like the Roundtable in Manhattan and the Boulevard in Brooklyn. Interestingly enough it should be noted that it was Jules’s sons who would start one of the most notorious 1990’s rap music label, Loud Records, which signed such the legendary Wu-Tang Clan to their lucrative deal. Once they hooked up with Levy he gave them money up front as proceeds for the label. Levy also had history with Sylvia, as she helmed the hit song “You Talk Too Much” by Joe Jones on the Levy owned Roulette Records. Levy provided the money to dig Joe Robinson out of debt, and other financial obligation from nondescript sources. Once the label kicked into full gear the possibilities were endless.

By the end of the 1970’s dipping into the new decade Sugar Hill Records would be the most prominent rap music label. They boasted the best artists on the label from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to the Treacherous Three, and many more. Also, one of the benefits from mob connections was the sure-fire use of intimidation. Just lime the line in the great film Goodfellas, no matter the case we gotta get paid. Levy had the backing of the mob making all the distributors pay on time, which they would never have done if he didn’t have the force. Besides Sugar Hill Records, Levy also signed to partner up with Charlie Stettler (The man who booked the first rap show at the venerated Rockefeller Center, and was the first to secure corporate sponsorship, which is rather ubiquitous in rap music today), the manager of the group the Fat Boys, to a contract on his Sutra label.

Levy also had deep connections in all the facets of music making. He was the stereotypical hardcore Jew who didn’t take anything from anybody. He also took as much as he could from others, whether they deserved it or not. But, he is an example of the new breed of young Jews who came into the fold after the demise of Sugar Hill Records. They were starting up just as he was being paid out to leave the business for good. Steve Plotnicki and Cory Robbins, the Jews who started Priority Records, had an office close to Levy’s in Manhattan when they first started. He was also indirectly responsible in influencing the Jewish businessmen of the 1990’s such as the Rifkinds and their Loud Records venture. This would be the launchpad for groups like the Wu, as well as their ingenious and very original contract design. Corrupt and innovative are just some qualities Levy possessed. But on the eve of Passover/Pesach I wanted to hook you up with one more Jew who secretly funded the war to break Hip-Hop and bring it to the people.

Peace and Chag Sameach/ Happy Passover

 

One of the Best Hip-Hop Albums You Never Heard: Dispatches 2

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Growing up in Tel-Aviv I got all my Hip-Hop knowledge, and listened to some of my earliest rap music, through my older brother. My older brother Anton would bring in some of the newest albums from the United States. Some of these albums had such amazing covers wetting my appetite further to pop in the tape. One example is 2 Live Crew’s magnum opus As Nasty As They Wanna Be, where I was blown away by the four group members looking at us waist up on the front cover. Hovering over each member are scantily clad black women wearing bikinis, note the second from the left with no top!, showing us exactly what we’re getting into. I knew that these guys were cool and their sound was gonna be some next level shit. This was running through my mind in Israel, listening to 2 Live Crew during the First Gulf War, Far Out!!! It’s different hearing the song “Me So Horney” with my brother right before the alarms went off, under the threat that at any time we would have to run to our sealed room and put on our gas masks. Oh, the good ol’ days.

After moving to the United States and relocating to New Haven, Connecticut in 1992 my influences began to steadily change. by the time I reached High School, and through my experiences, my crew of hardcore listeners each opened my mind to new music and sounds. Each member of my crew had his own specialty of the house when it came to the influences and types of music I heard. My boy Dan would drop the old school gems and re-educate me on the fast rap and old school stylings of Rakim, Steezo, Kool G Rap, Masta Ace, and the mythical murderer Big Daddy Kane. My boy Jared would hook me up with the most obscure and bizarre music that seemed to be from the nether regions of outer space. He schooled me on the sounds of such groups as Orb, Orbital, the insanely fascinating drones of Portishead, and Massive Attack, and of course everyone’s favorite Aphex Twin. My older brother still hooked me up, but there was an even distribution.

My boy Paul is the one who would school me on the old school, but he ushered me into the underground with such hits as Company Flow, and all the up and comers. Another great plus is the fact that we both went to the same College, Purchase College, until we were dejected in the middle of our Junior year. However, towards the end of my Freshman year and my sophomore year, I would always mozzie on down to Paul’s room and he would say….”Hey, I got a new album so listen, light it up, and relax cause it’s a two-man listening party.

You can see by the lovely facade that Purchase College (Or Poor-choice as the T-shirts read) somewhat resembles a prison, so we needed to veer far away from this under siege mentality.

One day, I walked into Paul’s room and it was another listening party. Enthusiastically I asked, what’s on the menu? After a short pause, as Paul never answers redundant questions, he turned with a smile and said, “Spontaneous.” He meant the we were about to embark on a journey through the slept on masterpiece by Spontaneous titled, Spur of the Moment Musik. The “K” gave it an extra crisp pronunciation because once you start, you can’t escape the excellence.

Originally from Chicago, MC Spontaneous paid his dues in Los Angeles’s underground hip-hop scene. This scene is very important due to the many independent performers coming from these venues and into the spotlight. He was signed to the indie label Goodvibe Recordings, which included such underground luminaries as Slum Village, Bahamadia, CHOPS, and Declaime’s alter ego known as Dudley Perkins. But, it was Spontaneous who blew it all away with the release of his full length album in the dawn of the new millennium, 2000.

The album’s introduction sounds like a collective chanting atop a mountain, calling for the man, the myth as they chant “Spontaneous.” He also penetrates their chants with his own bravado telling the listener, while using a beat sampling Georges Bizet’s Habenera From Carmen, in his high-pitched voice that “Everywhere I go I bust…….Mics! Hush Hush Hmmm, quiet in my room before I turn your style into dust.” Hence we have begun with the “Spontaneous Anthem.”

and then we hear the announcement of the coming of the album and this new breed of MC, unknown to us in the lower regions of earth-land. “And now ladies and gentlemen” as we hear the announcer ready us for the next move, and then it hits hard like a nail in the coffin. It goes right into the next track, the titles track, “Spur of the Moment” where he uses a futuristic sounding sample of Beethoven’s opening to his 5th Symphony. The chutzpah of this guy likening himself to the masters of orchestras past, but not that distant from modern-day overtures. For example, if you read the RZA’s rationale for hiding the new Wu-Tang album, while waiting for a high bidder to shell out the millions for posterity’s sake. But, the RZA pointed out that he wanted to raise the caliber of the music by selling it as a bona-fide masterpiece.

Spur of the Moment Musik is an interesting title as it seems like the sheer antithesis of the entire album. Listening to its entirety it feels that this was all planned, constructed, and put together in such a crafted fashion that there are few weak links of music. This is further solidified with the fact that Spontaneous produced all the music, so all the future outer scope beeps all came from his brain matter. On fine example is the track “Touch This” where it starts with these beeps, as he changes the tempo back and forth, while rapping on the faulty and fraudulent posturing by the new crop of wannabe rappers, a la 2000.

He says it all with the hook by warning all these rappers that they don’t even exist on his plane of existence. He weaves you into his dissing factory by side lining this pedestrians saying “Get up out my face baby you can’t touch this, cause this shit is hip-hop, I don’t know what your shit is.” and then he makes it more clear by saying, “Get up out my face baby you can’t touch this, if your shit’s hip-hop than I’m on some other shit.” Stay on earth for amateur hour because Spontaneous is holding open mic nights in the Milky Way.

He is far from bashful and full of confidence when proclaiming his supremacy over the wack MC’s in the game. Tracks like “Disco Technology” and “Next School MCs” are great tirades on his true devotion to the craft while using the traditional rhyme scheme of braggadocio and boasting.

Another interesting feat of the album is the multifaceted use of various MCs spanning the human map. There are MCs from the West coast, in the form of Tash from the Liks and Xzibit, East Coast Mc’s like the pioneer Kurtis Blow and Rock from the Heltah Skeltah crew, as well as Saukrates from Canada. Regardless of the mixed backgrounds each track with them is stellar in its own way. One fine example is the track with Xzibit and Saukrates titled “Reprezen’n.” The track begins with an eerie awakening while we weave through Saukrates and his rhymes, then Spontaneous gives a preview to his lyrics while gliding into the one word chorus, and then Spontaneous comes hard with his opening slavo….”Walk in the present with a rapper from the future, High off oxygen stoned like medusa, hand of engineers, writers, and producers, Spur of the moment hit you with shit you ain’t used to.” Quite an overview as this is only the third track on the album.

Another interesting segment is his “Mama Why They Try Da Mick Me” skit (and note that it’s spelled Mick, but he says mock), which leads into the next track with Rock.

He goes through his chorus to the next track “Quiet On Da Set” (Oh the good old days where this was always dis) asking the laughing crowd, “Why are they mocking me?” Interestingly enough he would know about these impromptu performances in the various clubs, coffee shops, and other venues for the underground hip-hop artists in California. He probably got plenty of grief as the crowds would chat during his early sets. However, on the album he extols himself while holding the power over the crowd.

“Ain’t nobody talking when I’m talking see” he screams with his high frequency decibels.

The album is another example of the lost ark of gems in the realm of rap music. There are plenty more, and the introduction was laid out in order to show that influences were, and remain, very important. Although the way people speak to each other about new rap releases is in the virtual world. The nostalgia of hitting up a record store with friends, spinning and testing records for hours, while debating with friends and strangers about the new and unheard unknowns, or as Donald Rumsfeld said, the known unknown MC’s of the underground.

Just like the swivel over Spontaneous’s face on the cover, we are taken for a twist and turn through the mind of Spontaneous and Spur of the Moment Musik.

Peace,

And an extra shout out to my boys – Paul, Dan, Jared, Drew, and of course Paul. Holler…..

 

 

 

#Spontaneous #SpurOfTheMomentMusik #broganoff #danmeyers0n #2Live Crew