Today is Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, and for me this holiest day of the year is a time to reflect. To kick off my weekly series of hip-hop posts—which will hit the Bleader every Wednesday—I’ve decided to reflect upon a year of Judaism in hip-hop, with a particular focus on a particular song by self-proclaimed “Hasidic reggae superstar” Matisyahu, “Tel Aviv’n.”
Matisyahu is hardly the only Jewish person in rap today. Several fellow Jews have made pretty good showings too, or offered reminders of their influence on the sound and culture of rap. A 19-year-old Jewish rapper from Pittsburgh named Mac Miller hit big with Blue Slide Park, the first independently released album to take the top spot on the Billboard 200 in nearly two decades. Polarizing doe-eyed rapper-singer Drake held a “re-bar mitzvah” in his video for “HYFR,” which takes the party-fication of the bar mitzvah ritual to an extreme that can only be accomplished by involving Weezy dressed in a checkered sports coat and panda ski mask. And music mogul Lyor Cohen announced on Monday that he’d be resigning as chairman and CEO of Warner Music Group, prompting me to remember his role in guiding a number of hip-hop acts into the limelight.