Shalom Life | May 10, 2015

Jewish Top 10s: Rappers

From the Beastie Boys to Drake, Jews continue to have a strong influence on hip hop culture. As such, Shalom Life is proud to present our list of the best Jewish rappers around.

By: Daniel Koren

Published: July 19th, 2013 in Culture » Music » News

7.


RAPPER: THE ALCHEMIST

JEWISH NAME: ALAN DANIEL MAMAN

HOMETOWN: BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA

KNOWN FOR: "HOLD YOU DOWN," KEY TO THE CITY"

WORD: Live pyrotechnic jacket made out of asbestos/ My residence high up in the tree, like where the nest is

Alan Daniel Maman, better known as The Alchemist (or simply, Alchemist) is a Caucasian Jewish-American record producer, DJ and rapper. He was born to Jewish parents and his father is of Israeli descent. As a teenager, Al began to identify strongly with the rebellious lyrics and urban sounds of hip-hop, and he began writing his own lyrics as a creative outlet. He formed a rap duo with Scott Caan called The Whooliganz as a teenager and they had one single in 1993 called "Put Your Handz Up." After rising to prominence in the late 1990s as a close associate of Dilated Peoples and Mobb Deep, he went on to produce for many of hip hop's leading artists in the 2000s. He has been Eminem's official DJ for years, signed to his label Shady Records as a producer. In 2005, Al joined The Anger Management Tour 3 with Eminem, 50 Cent, D12, Obie Trice and Lil' Jon. The Alchemist has been hailed as this generation's DJ Premier, and is one of the best rap producers in the industry.

6.


RAPPER: MAC MILLER

JEWISH NAME: MALCOLM JAMES MCCORMICK

HOMETOWN: PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA

KNOWN FOR: "DONALD TRUMP," KOOL AID & FROZEN PIZZA," "RED DOT MUSIC"

WORD: I always do it big like a Jewish nose

Pittsburgh native Malcolm James McCormick, better known as Mac Miller, probably isn’t the oldest rapper on this list, but he’s certainly one of the most promising. With a Jewish mother and Christian father, Mac was raised Jewish, had a Bar Mitzvah, and entered into the rap scene not long after, first as a member of Pittsburgh group ‘The Ill Spoken,’ before moving onto further work as a solo artist, releasing a series of successful mixtapes and his debut album, Blue Slide Park in 2011. Blue Slide Park would become the first independent hip-hop album to top the billboard chart since Tha Dogg Pound's Dogg Food in 1995. The album received an overall mixed response, but fans would hail Miller as the king of college frat-rap. Since releasing the record, however, Miller has tightened his style, presenting more mature lyrics backed by production from more progressive beatmakers like Flying Lotus. Miller’s latest, Watching Movies With The Sound Off, has been regarded as a notable improvement, with critics noting that he has nowhere to go but up.

5.


RAPPER: MATISYAHU

JEWISH NAME: MATTHEW PAUL MILLER

HOMETOWN: WHITE PLAINS, NEW YORK

KNOWN FOR: "JERUSALEM," "KING WITHOUT A CROWN," "ONE DAY"

WORD: I give myself to you from the essence of my being, and I sing to my God, these songs of love and healing

Perhaps the most (up until recently) visibly Jewish artist in the hip-hop spectrum, Matthew Paul Miller, better known as Matisyahu, rose to fame for his intuitive fusion of reggae, hip hop, and rock, with traditionally Jewish themes. Raised a reconstructionist Jew, he soon began to rebel against his upbringing as he entered his teens. He became interested in Judaism again when he reached his late teens, going out and acquiring a siddur and tallit, while also beginning to wear a yarmulke and tzitzit. He eventually joined the Lubavitch movement after turning 19, taking Matisyahu as the Hebrew version of his name. Through songs like "King Without A Crown," Matisyahu was able to make a name for himself, and establish a formidable relationship with r&b sensation Akon. What truly earns his right on this list is his prowess as a beatboxer, able to craft amazing beats using only his voice.

In 2011/2012 Matisyahu unveiled a new look for himself, appearing without his religious dress, beard, and dyed blonde hair, expressing his new goal of reclaiming himself, how he would be “trusting my goodness and my divine mission.” His most recent album Spark Seeker was released in 2012.


4.


RAPPER: DRAKE

JEWISH NAME: AUBREY GRAHAM

HOMETOWN: TORONTO, ONTARIO

KNOWN FOR: "BEST I EVER HAD," "HEADLINES," "TAKE CARE OF YOU"

WORD: I was born to do it, born to make bomb music/I flow tight like I was born Jewish/Well, actually I was born Jewish

Originally gaining fame as Jimmy Brooks on Degrassi: The Next Generation, Aubrey Drake Graham, better known as Drake, is one of the most successful Jewish rappers working today. After being signed to Lil Wayne's Young Money label, Drake exploded onto the scene with his Best I Ever Had mixtape, one of the few rappers to receive extensive radio play from a mixtape. Though many have regarded him as a 'soft' rapper, Drake has redefined the hip hop industry, paving the way for a new breed of rappers that don't have to be 'gangsta,' 'from the street,' or otherwise. Drake’s mother is Jewish-Canadian, and Drake himself attended a Jewish Day School; his video for “HYFR” features a ‘re-bar-mitzvah,” attended by several 'honorary Jewish' members of rap royalty.

Drake’s own albums, Thank Me Later, and Take Care have both received high praise, and he has appeared as a featured artist on popular songs by fellow rap artists, including Rick Ross, Kendrick Lamar, and A$AP Rocky. Drake has hosted the popular OVO Fest in Toronto for the last three years, bringing international artists like Stevie Wonder, Nas, Eminem and Jay-Z to the city, while also showcasing Canadian talents like The Weeknd and Kardinal Offishall. His third album, Nothing Was The Same, is scheduled for release this September.

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