Y-Not And The Rise Of Schtarker Rap

Character Sundays

Rap and hip-hop have always seemed to be the province of the urban kids.  Beats and rhythms seemingly taken from the white noise of city traffic, lyrics decrying police treatment, glorifying street gangs and their culture, boasts aimed at the crew on the next block, the very things middle and upper middle class shouldn’t be able to relate to in any way shape or form.  Yet, rap/hip-hop is has influences rock and roll genre immeasurably since the late 1980’s.

Movies like Malibu’s Most Wanted show just how pervasive the music has become in the lives of the suburban and exurban adolescent experience.  So it’s no shock there are now Jewish rappers out there but a black orthodox Jewish rapper with payas?  Yes there is and he bills himself, cheekily, as Y-Not (and raps in Aramaic, the language of the Mourner’s Kaddish!).

(From the 3/20/11 Detroit News article by Neal Rubin)

It’s not your everyday record company, and people understand that. When all but three musicians are Orthodox Jews — including the black guy who raps — you don’t dial up Shemspeed if you need an act for Friday night.

Also, says Yitz Jordan, “Jack’s House of Ribs is not calling. That’s not happening.”

The music business is what it is, though, and the hours are what they are, so Jordan is less than perky on his way to a morning gig at a school outside New York City. He’s the rapper, and he’s on the phone from the back of a taxi saying he’s not sure what grade levels he’s going to find when he gets there: “It’s way too early for me to even think about who I’m performing for.”

He’s also a bit snappish on the subject of his original name, before he converted and figured out there was a rhythm to ancient languages like Hebrew and Aramaic. (“Don’t ask me that. I never use it.”) But he’s a positive guy, Jordan says, doing positive hip-hop, and if he can stay awake long enough, it won’t be early anymore.

Jordan, known on stage as Y-Love, will be working more suitable hours next Sunday when he plays the annual Steven Gottlieb Music Festival at the Jewish Community Center in West Bloomfield Township. Along with an electro hip-hop, Yemenite-style DJ called Diwon, a “Biblegum pop” duo known as Stereo Sinai and the avant-jazz quartet Pitom, he’ll be part of a 6 p.m. showcase devoted to progressive Jewish music and unusual descriptions.

Don’t be scared away by the languages, Jordan says. He mostly rhymes in English, and when he doesn’t, “you can understand a lot of it from context clues.”

Those of who write your grocery lists in Latin or Yiddish, meanwhile, will feel right at home.

Finding a new faith

Jordan does not hold the exclusive copyright on being a black, Jewish rapper. Drake, whose album “Thank Me Later” hit No. 1 last year, is all of those things, plus Canadian. But Y-Love is Jewish first and foremost — even if being Jewish came second or third.

His Ethiopian-American dad was a New Age sort of guy, his Puerto Rican mom was Catholic, and they went to a Baptist church in Baltimore because it was close by. At 7, having seen something about it on television, he announced that he wanted to celebrate Passover. Perplexed, his mom approached a Jewish co-worker: “What do I do?”

Young Jordan wound up at a Seder. By second grade, he says, he was trading his lunch money to a classmate for second-hand Hebrew lessons, and by high school he was a punk rocker with red and black braids — beneath a yarmulke.

High school friends challenged his sincerity often enough that “it was extremely annoying,” but on the plus side, it spurred him to learn widely and quickly about the faith. Eventually he moved to Brooklyn and converted, and it was there that his rabbis gave him a fateful set of marching orders.

Go forth to Jerusalem, they said, to integrate the Torah into your life and accidentally discover rapping.

A start in New York

Everyone at the yeshiva, or school, was assigned a partner. Jordan’s was a future lawyer from Long Island named David Singer. Singer would pound a beat on a table, and Jordan would read the Jerusalem Talmud in its original dialect of Aramaic.

Fast-forward a year and a few thousand miles, and the two of them found themselves in a Manhattan bar on open mic night, where they freestyled some of their polyglot routines and brought down the house.

Now it’s Jordan’s career, and his imprint. The night he corralled Jay-Z’s producer outside the men’s room of a nightclub, he had to apologize before he launched into his rap-slash-sales-pitch: “So sorry. I just can’t do this unless I drop in a little bit of Aramaic. Do you mind?”

There was no objection, but no career epiphany, either. So Jordan is still kickin’ it with the homeboychiks at his record company and getting ready for the release of his second album, “This Is Unity,” which is upward of 80 percent English.

“I’m trying to be a little more accessible,” he says … and ideally, a little better rested.

Yes it’s true.  The Jews are taking over hip-hop.  Soon the Gansta rap sub genre with be known as Schtarker rap.  Bitches will be Yentas.  And there will no longer be thieving.  All monies will be invested for the fortunate mark.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Every Friday, get 2 for 1 movie tickets when you use your Visa Signature card.

Recent Comments