In honor of the Jewish New Year, the Daily Cypher brings you the top 5 Jewish emcees of all time. Read the full article to see if your favorite Hip Hop Hebrews made the cut.
1. Beastie Boys
Without a doubt, the best Jewish emcee(s) of all time have to be Brooklyn’s own Beastie Boys. The Beasties started out as a hardcore punk band playing underground shows all over NYC, until they decided to experiment with hip hop and recorded the song “Cooky Puss.” “Cooky Puss” saw some success in the local community and the Beastie Boys decided to make hip hop music full time, leading to a record deal with Def Jam and the release of Licensed To Ill in 1986 (the album was originally titled Don’t Be A Faggot but Columbia Records refused to release the album with that name). Licensed To Ill was a critical and commercial success, selling over 9 million copies and becoming the first rap album to break the Billboard Top 200. The Beastie Boys and their fans had a scare when Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch revealed he had cancer in 2009 but were relieved when he announced that he had beaten the disease in 2010. The Beastie Boys are set to release their new album Hot Sauce sometime in 2010, and the album’s first single, “Too Many Rappers” feat. Nas, was nominated for a Grammy in the Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group category.
Many of Drake’s loyal fans are aware that the Canadian rapper was raised Jewish and was even Bar Mitzvah’d. Aubrey ‘Drake’ Graham’s mother is Jewish which makes him a Jew as well, according to Jewish law. Drake broke onto the entertainment scene as “Jimmy” in the Canadian drama “Degrassi.” The show provided an outlet for Drake to showcase his rap skills and continue working on his music. In 2007, Drake’s single “Replacement Girl” featuring Trey Songz was featured on BET, making him the first unsigned artist to have his video featured on the network. Lil Wayne eventually took notice of Drake and the two recorded together before Wayne finally signed him to a multi million dollar record deal. Drake received a two million dollar advance, retains publishing rights to all of his music, and only pays 25 percent of his music sales revenue to the label as a “distribution fee.” While Drake may be one of the hottest emcees in the game right now, he still ranks number two behind the legendary Beasties.
3. MC Serch
MC Serch is a legend in the hip hop game, first as a member of hip hop group 3rd Bass, and later as a producer, most notably producing Nas’ debut Illmatic. After releasing three albums with 3rd Bass, Serch released his solo debut, Return of the Product. While you probably won’t find the album on any top ten list, it is notable for featuring a guest appearance on the track “Back To The Grill” from a very young Nas. Recognizing Nas’ skills as an emcee, Serch decided to transition from rapping into producing, making Nas his first project. Serch executive produced Nas’ debut album Illmatic, which has achieved iconic status and is widely considered one of the best hip hop albums of all time. Serch is still producing music and is most recently known for hosting VH1’s “The White Rapper Show.”
4. Shyne (Moshe Levy)
While Shyne is probably most remembered as the guy who went to jail for P. Diddy, he was actually on his way to becoming a successful rapper before he was locked up. Shyne was discovered while freestyling with a friend and was noticed for his similar tone and style to Notorious BIG. Soon he was a member of the Bad Boy family, appearing on Mase’s album Double Up and Puff Daddy’s album Forever. He is perhaps most known for his single “Bad Boys” featuring Barrington Levy. Although he was not born Jewish, Shyne (now known as Moshe Levy) converted to the Jewish faith while he was incarcerated, relating to the hardships that the Jewish people have endured. “I grew up an Israelite life. Moses, all of our forefathers, had the most difficult lives.”
5. The Alchemist
Okay, yes we know, The Alchemist is more of a producer than a rapper, but this guy has produced some of the hottest music in the last decade so he’s earned a spot on the list. The Alchemist has produced for the likes of Mobb Deep, Dilated Peoples, The LOX, Eminem, Nas, Ghostface, Snoop Dogg, and many more. He has also been featured rapping on tracks with many of these same artists. Perhaps his most famous work of the last decade is producing the beat for Jadakiss’ “We Gonna Make It.” This beat was originally given to Ras Kass and titled “Home Sweet Home,” but after not receiving full payment for his work, The Alchemist began shopping the beat around. It eventually found it’s way to Jada who recorded “We Gonna Make It” and the rest is history.
Honorable Mention – Asher Roth
While Asher Roth is definitely rising fast in the hip hop game, the “I Love College” rapper didn’t earn a spot on the list because he does not identify himself as Jewish. Although his father is Jewish, his mother is Presbyterian making him a gentile in the eyes of Judaism. Asher told forward.com, “People have a negative reaction when I explain I am not Jewish.” Ash has a lot of talent and has really been the first suburban white rapper to have success in the rap industry. He’s currently on his mixtape G.R.I.N.D. and is a member of hip hop supergroup “All City Chess Club.”