Watch out for The Black Bar Mitzvah, a new mix tape being released this week from Rick Ross, one of the biggest hip-hop artists in the world. And no, he’s not a Jew – yet the cover of this album has Ross draped in a huge Star of David. Is Judaism suddenly becoming cool for hip-hop artists? Wow – what a moment. Many Jews have publicly long admired other races and religions – isn’t this a great turning moment for culture that a mega world-star is openly admiring Judaism?
And while there are many Jews in the hip-hop community, he’s far from the first star to speak of Judaism. Icon Jay Z in his song “ROC Boys,” rapped: “Black bar mitzvahs / mazel tov, it’s a celebration…” and he added for good measure “L’Chaim.”
On the first night of Passover 2012, mega-artist Drake (who is a Jew) released a “bar mitzvah” video “HYFR”, which started with footage from Drake’s actual bar mitzvah, where he is seen dancing and wishing the camera “mazel tov.” In Drake’s music video — staged as a bar mitzvah – hip-hop stars, including Lil Wayne and DJ Khaled, sat in a “synagogue,” watching Drake (donning a yarmulke and prayer shawl) read from the Torah. 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.”
Talk about non-traditional marketing that can benefit the Jewish people. These are some of the biggest celebrities in the world showing Jews and Jewish concepts as cool things. These people can ignite a spark among some Jews to excite them to learn about Judaism. There are so few Jewish celebrities who are “tough Jews,” or proud to be Jewish – maybe they can learn from the example set by the hip-hop community.
I own a PR agency that works extensively within the hip-hop industry with clients including Sean “Diddy” Combs, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and others – and have seen firsthand the effect these celebrities have.
This is a positive cultural moment. I hope the Jewish community can embrace it and use it to create a spark among Jews who haven’t been excited about Judaism yet.
L’Chaim to Jay Z, Rick Ross and Drake.