Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Hip-Hop Artist Drake: Playing A Mega-Positive Role in the Jewish Orchestra

April 16, 2012 10:37 am 8 comments

Scene from Drake's "HYFR" music video. Photo: screenshot via Drake - HYFR ft. Lil Wayne (Official Video).

Rabbi Avi Weiss says the Jewish community can be compared to a symphony orchestra, one in which there are drummers, flautists, violinists, and so on. Many in the community play different roles so that it will function at its best. Each person has their unique place and hip-hop artist Drake is someone who should be embraced by the larger Jewish community as playing a positive role in the Jewish orchestra.

Last week on the first night of Passover, Drake released his  “bar mitzvah” video “HYFR“, which starts with footage from Drake’s actual bar mitzvah, where he is seen dancing, and wishing the camera “mazel tov.”  (As Drake has stated previously, his mom is Jewish, and he attended a Jewish day school growing up in Toronto.)

HYFR is a music video – staged as a bar mitzvah – with hip-hop stars including Lil Wayne, Birdman and DJ Khaled sitting in a synagogue respectfully watching Drake (wearing a yarmulke and prayer shawl) read from the Torah. Throughout the video, one sees a proud Jew – with no Jewish self-mocking – in scenes showing Drake being thrown up in a chair, and the event foods showcasing bagels and gefilte fish. This video is great for Jewish pride.

As one may expect from a hip-hop music video, there is profanity and sexually explicit lyrics, but even so, a yarmulke bearing Drake does a lot to help Jewish pride and awareness everywhere.

Young Jews rarely see Judaism as cool and having “cool Jews” to look at helps. It’s not easy to get young Jews to wear their religion so outwardly, but a video where Drake so publicly embraces Judaism (he previously wore a Chai pendant on the cover of Vibe magazine) is a positive cultural moment for Jews everywhere and can do a lot to bring Jews closer to their religion.

We live in a world where the Pope and the Dalai Lama wear distinct outfits which people understand, and rightfully see as normal. However, a Rabbi with distinctive Jewish garb and a beard is seen as “weird” by some Jews. This video is one that may be able to show some young Jews that a bar mitzvah (and Judaism) can be cool.  Let’s face it, in a teenager’s world, “cool” means a lot.

As a proud Jew myself, I am firmly committed to Jewish education.  My PR firm works extensively within the hip-hop industry with clients including Sean “Diddy” Combs, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and others. I can firmly say that Drake’s video is very good for the Jewish community.

A caption at the beginning of the video says the rapper “chose to get re-bar mitzvah’d as a re-commitment to the Jewish faith.” Now, Rabbis and other communal leaders need to do their part to bring more Jewish youth closer to the Jewish faith, in an authentic and real life manner.

While I am not yet ready to add Drake to my Jewish celebrity role model list, Drake is playing his role in the orchestra. Now it’s up to the rest of us in the Jewish community to do our part.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a leading PR Agency and an active Jewish philanthropist who previously served as National President of Betar, founded by Ze’ev Jabotinsky.

The Algemeiner newspaper delivers breaking news and insightful commentary from Israel, the Middle East and Jewish communities around the world | Host to an international Jewish interest blogger community covering Zionism, Israeli politics, Middle East security, terrorism, Jewish tradition, Jewish art, Jewish culture, Jewish music, Jewish activism, Jewish family and spirituality, interviews, profiles, features, video and much more. Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

8 Comments

  • Honestly being of Christian religon I can say that video was the best ever. It really does give young ones and outlook at life. Me being a teenage my intrest level might waver sometimes but this video described what every teenager and possible adult has done once in their life. It just happened to be in a synagogue

  • Simply horrifying… Had to turn off the video after half a minute. The juxtaposition of kodesh and vulgarity is just too painful to watch.

  • Ummm… “cool”??? I guess we will have to agree to disagree. You said; “one sees a proud Jew – with no Jewish self-mocking – …” But I see only a total mocking Judaism. I’m very sorry, but I don’t see a positive role at all in this. And definitely not a “Mega-Positive” one. I cringe when I think of my teenage and twenty-something daughters watching this video. Of course you have a vested interest in this being seen as “cool”. But there is something inherently sick in this “Jewish lifestyle” he portrays in HYFR. He might as well have concluded it with making Matzah with the blood of Christian children – which has been proven NOT to be true – for those silly wabits out there. But seriously, he is a very talented young man, and I have full confidence that he can do better than this for the Jewish cause.

  • You’ve got to be joking! This HYSR video is nothing less than puerile poke at Judaism and Jews by somebody who seems to think we have more to learn from the E-Channel culture of rap and bling.

    Having grown up in Miami, I attended Temple Israel of Greater Miami (whose sanctuary the video desecrated), where my late grandfather, of sainted memory, served as president during the late 1930s and early 1940s. I thus found the video to be a personal affront to me and all my deceased family members who prayed in that synagogue over three generations.

    Yes, I am aware that the Algemeiner is a Habad mouthpiece, but I cannot fathom how it can promote the rank pritzus and shameful immorality depicted in this video. I know you’re always quibbling about the legitimacy of your Crown Heights bet din, but I cannot imagine that even one its members would give you a heter to depict, or promote the depiction, of adults, adolescents and children carrying on and holding their copulatory sexuality up in the public sphere for all to see. I hardly need mention the gentile miscengenation issues, which could hardly be acceptable in a religion that prohibits you from drinking the wine, or eating the cooked food of gentiles lest you come to intermarry with them.

    What kind of meaningful life do you think you are promoting by featuring laudatory essays about this self-hating video?

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Features Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    Unpacking the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict and Its Ripple Effect on Israel’s Region

    JNS.org – Aside from Israel itself, those with a vested interest in the Jewish state are accustomed to tracking developments related to Middle East players such as Iran, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. But much global attention has recently focused on the Caucasus region at the Europe-Asia border, specifically on the suddenly intensified violence between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the mountainous Nagorno-Karabakh area of western Azerbaijan. The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, while not taking place in Israel’s immediate neighborhood, does have what one scholar called […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Features Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    Earth Day 2016: Israel Shines in Water Technology, Recycling, Renewable Energy

    JNS.org – On Friday, April 22, 196 nations across the world mark Earth Day, the annual day dedicated to environmental protection that was enacted in 1970. Not to be forgotten on this day is Israel, which is known as the “start-up nation” for its disproportionate amount of technological innovation, including in the area of protecting the environment. For Earth Day 2016, JNS.org presents a sampling of the Jewish state’s internal achievements and global contributions in the environmental realm. Water conservation Israeli […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture World New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    New Documentary Explores Holocaust Humor, Role That Laughter Played in Death Camps

    Holocaust humor and the role that laughter played in the lives of Jews during World War II are the focus of a documentary that made its world premiere on Monday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. In The Last Laugh, first- and second-generation survivors, as well as famous Jewish and non-Jewish comedians, discuss their thoughts on when joking about the death camps is appropriate or taboo. “Nazi humor, that’s OK. Holocaust humor, no,” Jewish comedic giant, actor and filmmaker Mel Brooks says in the film. “Anything I […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    Tragedy Culminates in ‘Celebration,’ Says Israeli Author Who Lost Son to Terror

    JNS.org – Sherri Mandell’s life was devastated on May 8, 2001, when her 13-year-old son Koby was murdered by terrorists on the outskirts of the Israeli Jewish community of Tekoa. Yet Mandell not only shares the story of her loss, but also celebrates the lessons she has learned from tragedy. Indeed, “celebrate” is this Israeli-American author’s word choice. Her second book, The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration (Toby Press), came out earlier this year. The lesson: in every celebration, there is […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    For Alan Gross, Cuban Prison Didn’t Harden His Heart or Weaken His Ambition

    JNS.org – Alan Gross used to be nothing more to me than a tragic headline. When I started my position at this news service in July 2011, Gross had been imprisoned in Cuba since December 2009 for what that country called “crimes against the state.” Gross, a subcontractor for the United States Agency for International Development, went to Cuba to help the Jewish community there access the Internet. After his arrest, he received a trial he describes as a “B movie,” […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Features New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    New Movie Shows How Global Economic Instability Grew From Very Local Greed

    JNS.org – When I saw the recent Academy Award-winning film “The Big Short,” I was struck by the sheer genius of the financiers who devised the schemes and packaged the loans for resale, but it left me with unanswered questions about how the properties these loans represented were moved. “The Big Short” was largely about paper transactions, big money, and wealthy investors, and it mildly touched on the way the actual end-users — the home buyers and brokers — played into this […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Book Reviews Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Psychiatry and the Spirit

    Why do we think so negatively about psychiatrists that we still insult them by calling them shrinks? Some medics might be quacks, but we don’t generally refer to them as witches! Shrinks; The Untold Story of Psychiatry, by Dr. Jeffrey Lieberman, is a sobering account of how psychiatry has swung from a marginal, unscientific mixture of weird theories into one of the most common and pervasive forms of treatment of what are commonly called “disorders of the mind.” Is it […]

    Read more →
  • Features Opinion At Forbes Summit in Israel, Entrepreneurship Is a ‘Common Language’

    At Forbes Summit in Israel, Entrepreneurship Is a ‘Common Language’

    JNS.org – Nine months ago, Seth Cohen, director of network initiatives for the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, and Randall Lane, editor of Forbes Magazine, were schmoozing about the “vibrancy of Tel Aviv and soul of Jerusalem,” as Lane put it. They dreamed about how they could bring young and innovative millennials to the so-called “start-up nation.” From April 3-7, Forbes turned that dream into a reality. Israel played host to the first-ever Forbes Under 30 EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) […]

    Read more →