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December 27, 2022 1:11 pm
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Black Jewish Rapper Says Writing Songs About His Experiences With Antisemitism Is ‘Therapeutic’

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avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Westside Gravy. Photo: Instagram

Jewish rapper Noah Shufutinsky, who goes by the stage name Westside Gravy, spoke in a recent podcast interview about antisemitism in the hip-hop industry, how he uses music to discuss anti-Jewish bias and the discrimination he has faced for being a proud black Jewish man.

“I think it’s important for our people to share our experiences as part of our story,” he told The Algemeiner. “My personal story is one of resilience that was passed down from generations before me who struggled to give me the opportunities to cherish my roots, and we all have the responsibility to continue that legacy.”

“It is important to support Jewish voices in all aspects to showcase our story and normalize the Jewish narrative in artistic spaces,” he added. “This means supporting and uplifting music and art created by Jewish artists that speaks about Jewish issues and the diverse history of Am Yisrael [the nation of Israel] from the Diaspora to the homeland we’ve always maintained a connection to.”

In an interview earlier this month on the Podcast Against Antisemitism, Westside Gravy said that after he released his song Diaspora in 2019 — in which he raps “Check out the flag that I’m waving, two blue stripes and a huge star of David” — he began receiving antisemitic death threats. He pushed forward though and earlier this year released a track called Wish You Would 2, whose lyrics include “Why do I gotta be the one to pay the price and change my life? It just ain’t right to trade my sight and see myself through hatred’s eyes.”

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“A lot of times, there’s a conversation about the talk that Black parents have with their Black children regarding how to interact if you’re getting profiled or harassed by anyone, really, but especially people talk about it when it comes to issues of police brutality,” said the California native, who now lives in Israel. “And there’s also a similar thing to do with being Jewish, publicly identifying as Jewish.”

The kippah-wearing rapper added, “There’s times that I’ve been harassed and had things yelled at me for being identifiable as a Jewish man. You should be able to go out and not hide aspects of your identity that are immutable…you can’t change them, you can’t hide them, or else you’re hiding a part of yourself. And at the same time, it’s about being conscious of whatever situation you’re in.”

In his satirical song Benjamins Baby, he mocks the antisemitic stereotype of an influential Jewish politician and references notorious antisemites, such as former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke and Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. The song’s title is a reference to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who claimed in 2019 that the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC buys political support for Israel when she tweeted, “It’s all about the Benjamins baby.”

Westside Gravy said writing songs about his Jewish identity, or the discrimination and antisemitism he has experienced is “therapeutic.”

He also shared his concerns about the state of antisemitism in the world and those who choose to publicly hide their Jewish identity because of it.

“When we have these stereotypes put on us, they’re not as a result of someone’s individual thought,” he said. “They’re a result of a whole, huge movement of hatred against our people, that infects a bunch of people to hold these stereotypes and negative prejudices against us.”

Westside Gravy additionally discussed antisemitism in the hip-hop industry, a conversation specifically timely following the antisemitic comments made by rapper Kanye West beginning in October, and he called out British rapper Wiley, who he used to admire but now criticizes for repeatedly promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories. The pro-Israel rapper said, “When it’s an artist who’s putting these tropes into something that’s going to consumed worldwide, even in places where people don’t have a Jewish community or population to compare that to, it’s much more dangerous because it spreads so much faster.”

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