Tuesday, September 16, 2008

TVD's Daily Wax

Hasidic hip hop is a fascinating musical oddity, deriving from a peculiar conflation of location and circumstances. Several of these musicians have roots in Crown Heights, a crowded Brooklyn neighborhood which is a pressure-cooker of racial tension. Rebelling against the strict musical conventions of the Orthodox Jewish lifestyle, these musicians began creating music which borrowed heavily from the predominately African-American population around them. They incorporated elements of hip hop, rap, reggae, electronica, and jam band rock into their religious liturgy. Thus was born the amusingly incongruous image of bearded Hasidic Jews in traditional garb, beatboxing and busting out mesmerizing rhymes in English, Yiddish, Hebrew, and Aramaic. These artists have completely subverted the prevailing mentality of hip hop culture. Instead of singing about babes and bling, their lyrics are all about mysticism and spirituality. If there’s any allusion to romance, it’s only in the context of a love song addressed to God. Matisyahu, the principal avatar of the genre, started out as a curiosity on college radio. Since then he has achieved considerable mainstream success, including airtime on MTV and a modeling contract with Kenneth Cole. Now there's a new generation of singers hot on the heels of his success, the best of which is freestyling phenomenon Y-Love. While their brazen disregard for convention may outrage musical purists, Hasidic hip hop artists deserve praise for finding an utterly original source of inspiration in the antiquated melodies of Hasidic tradition and making them relevant to a wider audience.

Matisyahu - Chop ‘Em Down (Mp3)
Y-Love - Check The Technique (Mp3)
JewDa Maccabi - Iron Like A Lion (Mp3)
Nosson Zand - Fresh (My People Stay) (Mp3)
Ta-Shma - Shine (Mp3)