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.

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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?

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