Screams pierced the quiet concentration of The Jewish Week offices in Times Square on Thursday afternoon. The reason for the disturbance? Five floors down, across the street at the Best Buy Theater on West 44th Street, 22-year-old singer/songwriter and rapper Jake Miller had just stepped out of his “Dazed and Confused” tour bus, pausing for a quick Snapchat before heading backstage to prepare for his concert.
His fans, who call themselves the “Miller-tary,” had been waiting since 9 a.m. to make sure they’d be close enough to the stage to drink in every word of original songs such as “Like Me,” a celebration of individuality and self-confidence. Miller’s new EP “Rumors” dropped last night and already snagged the top spot on iTunes from Taylor Swift. Aside from being a YouTube star and teen heartthrob, Miller is also a member of the Tribe. He spoke to The Jewish Week before his concert about traveling to Israel, “pulling a Beyonce,” and marriage proposals.
Tell us about your Jewish background.
We’d celebrate Shabbat every now and then, I had a bar mitzvah, which was a great time in my life. I went to Hebrew school growing up, I went to Israel with my family and my friends, so Judaism is definitely important to me.
How was Israel? Did you tour?
I just went for a vacation before I got into music. It was awesome, it was really cool, a lot different than I would have thought. Everyone was nice there, and the food was great. It was a lot of fun.
How do you relate to your Jewish identity today?
I don’t think it’s really changed my whole life, but I think it’s always going to stick with me. It’s more of a family thing. We would have family dinners on Shabbat, and I’m probably going to do the same thing with my kids when I’m older. I’ll definitely have my kids go to Hebrew school and have a bar mitzvah.
You’ve cited some other Jewish rappers like Mac Miller, Drake, and Asher Roth as inspirations. How do you think Jews fit into the rap world?
I think nowadays, the acceptance for skin color and race and religion is becoming a lot better. If you’re talented, it’s going to bleed through everything no matter if you’re Jewish, Christian, black, white, orange, no matter what you are. I think nowadays people are becoming a lot more tolerant and accepting them for their talent instead of their religion or background.
You released an EP last night, and “pulled a Beyonce”-what’s the fan response been so far? You seem to have a close relationship with them through social media.
Yeah, my fans, they’re just killing it right now. It’s been the number one on top of Taylor Swift in pop charts for the past two days. And, they love it. I mean, think it’s the perfect little present for them. It’s a little something to start getting them excited. It’s been awhile since I last released new music so, it’s really cool.
Can we expect anything exciting over the course of the tour?
I’m definitely gonna be performing my new music from the new EP. It’s a better show. Visually, it’s a lot cooler than my last show. A lot of cool surprises, I don’t wanna give too much away but, I play a live instrument for the first time on stage so, that’s one of the many cool things that we do.
Do you think the Miller-tary sees you as a nice Jewish boy?
I want people to know that I’m Jewish, it’s something that I’m definitely proud of. But I don’t wanna be known as a “nice Jewish boy.” I’d like to be known as a mature pop/hip-hop artist that just happens to be Jewish.
We were talking to some of your fans outside the theater, and overwhelmingly they wanted us to ask if you would marry them.
Yeah, I get that a lot. I unfortunately can’t marry everybody, but I love my fans.