Beyond the Beastie Boys By Paul Wieder
Take the Hip-Hop Hoodios (in Chicago January 18-19.) This quartet is from Brooklyn, and their sound is as diverse–and tough–as their neighborhood. The bands name comes from the Spanish word for Jew, Judio, and they rap in English, Hebrew, and Ladino (Judeo-Spanish). Their sound twines Hispanic instrumentation with hip-hop rhythms, resulting in a sound much richer than usually found in rap. Perhaps the biggest compliment paid to their authenticity is their wide acceptance in the Latino community.
“Were quite well accepted in the Latin world as being a Latin alternative act whose members just happen to also be Jewish,” explains Hoodio Josue “Josh” Norek. “But to Jewish folks, were a Jewish act whose members also happen to be Latino. Were comfortable being openly Jewish because were also openly rapping in Spanish if were going to ghettoize ourselves, we may as well go all the way!”
The Hoodios debut EP features a thumping version of the Ladino Chanukah favorite, “Ocho Candelikas” and samples of Hava Negila. Much of the remainder of their lyrics enter the realm of the unprintable. There is nothing mean about them, but they play with stereotypes and revel in the sexual swagger rap inherited from blues.
Until recently, Jewish performers kept to non-Jewish subjects. There were some rare moments: the Beastie Boys compared themselves to Shadrach, Mishach, and Abednigo tossed into the flames of controversy; 3rd Bass MC Serch offered “No Master Plan No Master Race” as a minority-solidarity anthem.
But the most widely known Jew in rap music today is Remedy, associated with Wu-Tang Clan. Born Ross Filler in Staten Island, Remedy and is quite observant. Only the Jew in the Wu could have written a song about his Hebrew name–in Remedys case, “Reuven ben Menachem.” Representing wherever he goes, Remedy has even performed his song “Never Again” in Berlin.
Then there are the brothers Braunstein–Ronnie, a.k.a. Necro, and Ill Bill–second-generation Israeli-Americans. Necro is a solo act who also runs a production studio. Ill Bill is part of the trio Non Phixion, which also includes Jewish rapper Goretex Medinah. Both Necro and Non Phixion toss Jewish references into their lyrics like croutons in chicken soup, but as yet have no whole songs on Jewish subjects. Necro gets his props and has able to lure some major names, like Prince Paul, to perform on his brothers albums, but still faces antisemitism from his fellow musicians.
Newer Jewish rappers–like Princess Superstar and members of Northern State– have thus far sidestepped the matter of their Jewishness.
In the meanwhile, there are several acts who are perfectly willing to address the issue directly. Todays Jewish-themed rap calls itself “Hebe-Hop.” The first wave, begun in the late 1980s, was largely comprised of novelty acts, with names like 2 Live Jews, Black Hatitude, and M.O.T.
Blood of Abraham, which formed in 1989 pioneered a more serious approach. The duo who rapped as Mazik and Ben Yad offered provocative lyrics on racism merged with street-worthy musicality. Their authenticity won them acceptance in the hip-hop community; they were taken as protégés by the legendary Eric “Eazy-E” Wright, who financed their video made at the Western Wall. Blood of Abraham has since folded, but its two albums 1994s “Future Profits” and 2000s “EyeDollarTree” stand as cornerstones of all Jewish rap.
MC Paul Barman debuted in 1998 and followed up with “Its Very Stimulating” the next year, the album that got him write ups in major papers. He has been much compared to Woody Allen, and shares the filmmakers kinkiness of hair and–other things. Barman is also Allenesque in that the most “Jewish” thing about him is his nebbish-ness. Barmans humor only gets as sophisticated as Adam Sandlers, his Mensa-level references notwithstanding. But on his latest, this years “Paulellujah!,” his strongest track is “Anarchist Bookstore,” in which he finally finds a subject– the growing apathy of the left–worthy of his wordplay. Still, his main theme is the disconnect between his mental magnificence and his lack-luster lady-luck.
Eric Roth, on the other hand, spends quite a bit of time on his debut, “Anathema,” boasting his prowess on the mattress. At least he prefers “hottie Hebrews,” rapping, “Zionist girl/Let me rock your world.” He also witheringly disses pompous religious and political leaders with glee. And it is rare to find an artist willing to grapple with his relationship with G-d with such honesty and openness. Most refreshing is the opening track, in which he declares: We are the chosen people, and we party with G-d!” The music is funky, catchy, and innovative, and his delivery ranges from goofy to vicious.
Here in Chicago, Cleetus Friedman is merging improv comedy and turn-tabling into “Hip Hop Theater.” DJ So-Called (of the “Hip-Hop Seder”) and DJ Max Glazer (Puff Daddy is a fan) are record-scratchers who often throw hip-hop into the mix. Prophet X, a new rap talent, refers to himself as a Black Hebrew, and contributes to RebbeSouls groundbreaking new release, “Change the World with a Sound.” And on the international scene, Israeli rapper Mook E raps in Hebrew; he is light-hearted and free-spirited on stage, with an engaging smile and messages of peace.
Jews are in hip-hop to stay–word to your Yiddishe Mama.
Call (773) 550-1543 or visit www.kfarcenter.com for concert details.
Posted: 1/2/2002 Related links… http://www.kfarcenter.com