It used to be the case that when you mentioned Jews and hip-hop, it was Jews who did the producing, and blacks who did the rapping. That’s changed. Now every rap great still living—which is to say, most—are running things: Jay-Z, Kanye, Lil Wayne are all producing giants. While Jews, on the other hand, are rapping: forget Matisyahu (but him too), there’s Drake and Mac Miller and, to my surprise, even DJ Drama.
I came across a fascinating post of recent interviews with all these stars, and several others I’ve never even heard of. They were all commenting on their Jewish backgrounds, and to save some time, I’ll highlight some of the best quotes.
From MC Serch of 3rd Bass: “Rabbi Spielman, who was the rabbi at my congregation in Bayswater, New York, had seen me in the park, listening to hip-hop. He looked at me with such concern — I’ll never forget it — and he said, 'I don’t understand, I have so much promise for you, why you want to be a shvartzer so bad?'
"I was like, 'What the fuck did you just say to me?' And he was like, 'Watch your language in my office.' And I was like, 'Watch my language? What the fuck did you just say to me? Are you kidding me? We’re here to educate and teach, we’re supposed to be teachers, and you’re trying to teach me hatred? Are you saying you have hatred for black people because they have a culture I appreciate and that because I’m interested in it, that takes away from my growth as a Jew? This is what you’re trying to teach me Judaism is about?' He was like 'No,' but I was like, 'Fuck you and fuck this.'”
From Mac Miller: “I’ve grown up Jewish. I went to Emma Kaufmann Camp, I had a bar mitzvah. [The bar mitzvah era] is such an awkward stage in your growth as a person. Looking at the pictures, I’m like ‘Man, look at me back then, what a weird looking dude.’”
And, somewhat disappointingly, but worth noting because, (a) it’s Drake, and (b) for its disappointingly playing-to-stereotype-whether-wittingly-or-not factor: “First of all, I live in an all Jewish area [of Toronto], Forest Hill. I went to a predominantly Jewish school. I definitely had a bar mitzvah in an Italian restaurant, mind you. The song of the night was Backstreet Boys' 'I Want It That Way.' I was in synagogue, I had my yarmulke on [but I didn't do a Torah portion]. I cheated, I just collected the money.”