Of A Different Drummer
Jewish hip-hop artists are moving beyond the novelty-act phase
a roundup of the latest crop of:Jewish rappers.
Special to the Jewish News
MC Paul Barman
Admittedly lacking in street credibility and the fast-
paced flow of traditional hip-hop MCs, the 28-year-old
ince the early days of hip-hop, artists like the
Brown University graduate makes up for it with his
Beastie Boys and MC Serch from 3rd Bass (see quirky, off-color. rhymes.
accompanying story on Michael Berrin) have
Adorned with legendary producer Prince Paul's (De
provided a nominal Jewish pres-
La Soul) funky beats, Barman's sopho-
ence on the urban music scene.
more effort, Paullelujah.f, rapidly climbed
But lyrics from Jewish rappers rarely
the college music charts.
focused on their cultural identity, and
In the song "C**k Mobster," Barman
artists seldom discussed being Jewish in
rattles off the celebrities he wants to
interviews in the first 20 years of rap's his-
sleep with to trip-hop beats: "I would
keep a tidy room for Heidi Klum / I'm
Novelty acts like Two Live Jews (named
immersed in Kirstie Alley's thirsty val-
after controversial rap group 2 Live Crew)
seemed to be the main creative outlet for
High and low art come together in
Jewish rappers in the 1980s and '90s.
Barman's world — along with a healthy
But now there's a new breed of New
dose of shtick. References in Barman's
York-based Jewish hip-hop artist; these
rhymes include Polish film director
MC Paul Barman
performers are proud of their Hebrew-
Krystof Kieslowski and trigonometry.
Bordering on slapstick, Barman may
Some are making liberal references to their religion in
prove grating to some, but who else would rhyme
their rhymes and are open about their Jewish identities
"Susan Faludi" with "booty"?
in interviews. Some are even donating proceeds from
record sales to Jewish causes.
' cess Superstar
These Jewish rappers are finding audiences not just at
Often referred to as a white EA Kim, 28-year-old
Jewish cultural centers, but also at more traditional ven-
Concetta Kirschner, aka Princess Superstar, purrs X-
rated lyrics to a background of inspired beats that she
Here is a sampling of some up-and-coming Jewish
With a cult following in North America mostly
through word-of-mouth, the Italian/Jewish MC is a big
star in the United Kingdom and tours worldwide as a
An "extended family" member of the Wu-Tang Clan,
29-year-old Remedy (nee Ross Filler) is best known for
Last winter's European surprise
his spot on the Wu-Tang Clan's 1998 IGlia Bees compi-
hit "Bad Babysitter" (a tale told
from the perspective of a
His rhymes touch on serious subjects, including the
naughty teenage babysitter who
Jews' exodus from Egypt and the Sept. 11 terrorist
brings her boyfriend over for an
on-the job tryst) was featured on
In "Never Again," Remedy raps about his family that
Britain's Top of The Pops.
died in the Holocaust: "The last hour, I smelled the
Her fourth full-length album,
flowers / Flashbacks of family sent to the showers."
Princess Superstar Is, includes col-
The rough-voiced Wu-Tang protege also draws paral-
laborations with British folk
lels between the Holocaust and African- American slav-
singer Beth Orton and rappers
ery in his songs.
Kool Keith and Bahamadia.
That's not to say that Remedy is totally serious; like
Simultaneously glamorous and
his mentors in the Wu-Tang Clan, his songs on his sec-
trashy, Princess Superstar's appeal
ond album, Code: Red, have their share of sexual refer-
goes beyond shock value — as an MC, her flow is fast
ences and braggadocio.
and her rhymes are clever.
But for Remedy, who sleeps with a Jewish Bible under
While her latest record is certainly a party album, its
his pillow, they might have a deeper meaning as well.
MC is an unlikely feminist. In "I Love You (Or At Least
I Like You)" she raps about turning her boyfriend into a
Rachel Zuckerman is a New York-based freelance
DIFFERENT DRUMMER on page 82
Israelis use hip-hop music to
express their cultural identities.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
ny Moroccans from the 'hood
here tonight?" Ilan Babylon belts
into the microphone, strutting
onto a stage in Beersheba.
Standing squarely in front of an Israeli
flag hanging from his disk jockey equip-
ment, he shouts, "Raise your hands and
make some noise, Moroccans!"
Close to half the crowd hollers enthu-
siastically, and a sea of hands shoots sky-
Welcome to hip-hop, Beersheba style.
"We brought a new rhythm and style
of music to Israel," says Chemi, a former
rapper for the now defunct band Shabak
Sameh, the first Israeli group to perform
and record hip-hop. "It took us 10 years,
and only now is it entering the main-
Today there are Israeli hip-hop artists
from all sectors of Israeli society ---
Ethiopian, Arab, Ashkenazi and
Mizrahi, or Eastern — with each band
sharing its own lyrical message and
blending its own signature musical style.
The messages of hip-hop are very
individi la I," Chemi says,
Some believe hip-hop has gone bad in
"Because hip-hop comes from the
States, it got a bit lost in Israel," says
Sivan, who was one of 250 people at a
Reinedy/Killah Priest show in Beersheba
Israeli hip-hop artists, she says, "are
trying to do black music, and they lost a
bit of the message."
"Hip-hop is a tool," he says.
"Everyone uses it to say what
they want The subjects that
we choose are things that we
are close to. I don't live in
New York. I grew up in
Yavneh. I live in Tel Aviv."
The experiences of Israeli
youth, he continues, are effer-
ent from those of African
"My father is from Iraq, my
mother is from Romania," Cherni says.
"It's a totally different history and reali-
Jeremy, an Ethiopian rapper, fuses tra-
ditional Ethiopian music and hip-hop.
"Ethiopian youth are attracted to hip-
HIP-HOP ISRAELI STYLE on page 82