Celebrate Hip Hop
arrived in my mailbox the other day. The compilation CD is
part of the Celebrate series, executive produced by Craig
Taubman, that claims to be your ultimate Jewish music
Now, I remember
Taubman as a song leader from my Hebrew school and camp
days, and its hard to imagine this king of the Shabbos
niggun as an edgy hip-hop producer. I had to ask, Can a
man undergo such a drastic change?
The answer is
yes but also a little bit no.
So lets start
with the highlights. The album features a list of 12
international artists from Israel, the U.S., (including the
Hip Hop Hoodios, misidentified as hailing from South
America), Canada, the U.K., and Russia. Parents will be glad
to know there is not a single word of English profanity to
be found here (though I think I heard a word on Russian band
iSQUADs History which got me smacked once).
contributions are particularly strong here. Mook E. offers a
driving send-up of teenage angst, Cross That Bridge. Big
Ben by Sagol 59, featuring A7, is a heartfelt eulogy to a
friend lost in a terrorist attack and a sad reminder of the
experience of violence and death shared by Israeli and
African American youth.
the British-Canadian duo Solomon & Socalled is a wonderful
romp, fusing Klezmer melodies with a bouncing beat and
Yiddish lyrics any non-Yiddish speaker could understand.
Among the more
intriguing American selections here are South Side of the
Synagogue, where Etan G. rants against those in his
synagogue who sought to stifle his creative side and Im
Guessing by Brimstone 127, a meditation on the things that
unite and divide all peoples featuring a beautifully
haunting chorus and bridge by Mariposah.
Two tracks do
seem out of place here. The first is the Hip Hop Hoodios
update of the Ladino Hanukkah song Ocho Kandelikas, which
opens the album. Dont get me wrong, Kandelikas will light
up any Hanukkah party, but the grungy celebration of the
Festival of Lights hardly fits into the genre of hip-hop.
out-of-place track is the closer, Just Peace by
Antithesis. The rhymes are weak, and the one-sided review of
Israels history from 1948 to the present flaunts
Antithesis ignorance. The song stands in stark contrast to
the more contemplative tracks on the album, particularly
Muslim and Jew where Remedy and Cilva Ringz offer Jewish
and Arab perspectives, respectively.
RZA closes the
joint preaching education as the solution par excellence.
Muslim and Jew also features the most rabbinic flavored
lyrics on the album: With your mind open and eyes shut /
You cant tell the difference of whos who and whats what /
Please educate our lost children every day / A lesson a day
keeps the Devil away.
So, a man can
change a little bit anyway. Celebrate Hip Hop does
present an all-round colorful, albeit somewhat sanitized,
selection of the current international Jewish hip-hop scene.