Black Jewish Rapper Addresses Antisemitism, Racism and Dual Identity in His Music
Black Jewish rapper Noah Shufuntinsky, also known as Westside Gravy, talked in a recent interview about writing and producing music that confronts Jewish stereotypes and antisemitism, among other issues.
The Israel supporter, whose parents are both Jewish, is most popularly known for his 2019 song “Diaspora,” which includes the lyrics, “I’m a proud part of the diaspora in my heart I hold Jerusalem and Africa.” He performed the track, in which he raps in Hebrew, at the 2020 AIPAC Policy Conference.
The George Washington University student, who was raised Jewish, told the website Hey Alma that his dual black and Jewish identity had resulted in him having to deal with “double the racism,” but he said he was grateful to his family for preparing him “to deal with it from a very young age” and “feel empowered to use my music to deal with it in a productive way.”
“All the cultural history gives me inspiration, and stories of my ancestors remind me of all I have to appreciate and my responsibility to keep moving forward,” he said.
In his song “Stereotypes,” he talks about the stigmas he faces as a black Jewish person. He raps, “Crack rock dealer/I’m a baby killer/Baby mama drama/Droppin’ bombs in Gaza/I’m up in the kitchen whipping up a brick/Disrespecting women/Sipping on a fifth/Then I think to myself — should I spend it all on gold chains, or keep all the wealth?”
Similarly in the politically-charged track “Benjamins Baby,” released in February, he addresses Jewish stereotypes.
The rapper told Hey Alma, “Almost every other Jewish person I’ve met has had antisemitic experiences. I wanted to get the irony across [about] all these crazy, ridiculous ideas, stereotypes and antisemitic tropes [that] are present all over the media. This song comes from my own personal experience with antisemitism. In the video, I use all sorts of examples, historical and modern, to show the history of antisemitism. I wanted to take this serious topic and portray it in a creative way that makes people think about the impact of antisemitism and their actions.”
Shufuntinsky said he hoped his music could be used to help educate young people about racism and Jewish identity.
“I think there’s a space where education and music can overlap,” he said. “Through the performances I’ve done with BBYO and other youth groups, I’ve used music as an educational tool — I’m able to talk to high school students about antisemitism and Jewish identity. I can share with others how music can help you express your Jewish identity.”