When I first sat down to figure out a blog topic, I decided to write on the Croatian presidentâ€™s revelation that his grandson, a Christian, attends a Jewish day school. BlasÃ© enough, controversial to some, I thought. But, when I was making my daily rounds of hip-hop websites to check up on all the latest music news, I came across something a bit more interesting.
Iâ€™ve never seen a â€œJewish Street Cred Reportâ€ before, and was a bit surprised to see the hip-hop magazine XXL put one up on its website. While XXLMag.com blogger Bol has posted notes stating, â€œItâ€™s wrong to hate Jews,â€ the homepage of his website, ByronCrawford.com, proudly declares, â€œBoycott Israel!â€ As an American Jew, I find it hard to reconcile one without the other, modern Jews without Israel. Iâ€™m not saying the two are inseparable, but they do often go hand-in-hand, as well they should. My stomach churned just now, reading the slogan on that website.
Anyway, the XXL report on â€œJewish street credâ€ gave different rappers up to five Stars of David, depending on how â€œJewishâ€ they and their associates were. Typical Jewish stereotypes, like wealth, Yiddish, and others, were used to give these artists their rankings. Ranked number one was Harlem rhymer Camâ€™ron, well known from his days as a member of the Diplomats group, who worked closely Alan Grunblatt, a Jewish man who is now head of Rock and Urban at E1 Music. Cam also spouted Yiddish lyrics in a video entitled, â€œHereâ€™s Camâ€™ron (You Little Yentas).â€ For these associations and more, Cam was given the maximum ranking of five Stars of David.
I cringe at reading what I just wrote. To begin, why rank how â€œJewishâ€ rappers are? In a day of failing hip-hop, with nonsense like Soulja Boy topping the charts, is that really what you need to worry about? Being Jewish, one may think, means lacking â€œstreet cred.â€ Therefore, the rappers who are more Jewish in their associations are more acculturated, farther away from the â€œhoodâ€ mentality that is hip-hop. Indeed, many of the rappers ranked on the list, like the Caucasian Asher Rothâ€”whose father is Jewishâ€”and the aforementioned Soulja Boy, are ridiculed by some hip-hop enthusiasts for being â€œfakeâ€ or not â€œstreet.â€
It is also callous to use a Star of David, which, for many Jews, is a holy symbol, as a means of categorizing people. The symbol of Israel, for all that the Jewish people fought, as a way of ranking just how mainstream rappers are is foolish and cruel. The stereotypes that XXL employs to rank just how Jewish the rappers are also derogatory. Heavyset rhymer Fat Joe, originally from the Bronx, lives in Miamiâ€”associated with retirement homes and elderly Jewish grandparentsâ€”which XXL thinks makes him â€œJewish.â€
XXL blasts industry entrepreneur Russell Simmons for having Jewish associates, saying â€œUncle Russ knows that having Jewish friends is good for business. (Just ask Lyor Cohen and Rick Rubin).â€ Yes, many Jews have been good businessmen, including the aforementioned executives. However, Rubin is a creative talent in his own right who helped the Beastie Boys, among others, come to fame, while Cohen is currently the Vice Chairman of Warner Music Group. Theyâ€™re not prominent and successful because theyâ€™re Jewish, necessarily; they are smart, savvy individuals that had to navigate the music industry just like other people did and create a niche for themselves, earning their own success.
Simmons also created a Public Service Announcement trying to end anti-Semitism in America, which XXL claims is just for business. Simmons linked with famed rapper Jay-Z to create the PSA, which is not a business endeavor. Bringing Jay on board will get more people from his fanbase, who know him as an artist, on board with his righteous message. If Simmons and Jay-Z are in a position to help end a form of racism, how can XXL legitimately criticize them? Their reasons are their own for doing what they do. Theyâ€™ve already got their business credibilityÂ with what XXL would deem the â€œJewishâ€ executives, so they hardly need to pander to anyone in that arena. In addition, Simmons has also created PSAs advocating against dogfighting. People may claim that animal abuse is not serious, but it is. In a different, and important way, anti-Semitism is still a danger today. Give Simmons some credit for addressing issues that are pertinent and deadly today, for trying to help the hip-hop community that he worked to build not impale itself on racial hatred. He is helping people, one step at a time, erode racial barriers, which XXL is trying so hard to keep up. Give it up, guys. Follow Simmonsâ€™s lead and quit the racism.