Thursday, April 12, 2012

Drake gets re-bar mitzvah'd

Since Drake, aka Aubrey Graham, the Toronto-born-and-raise Jewish rapper, exploded onto the scene after rapper Lil Wayne (whom Drake always sounds like he's trying to imitate - I seriously can't tell their voices apart) signed him in 2009, Jews, whether fans of his music or not, have been itching to hear him speak publicly and fondly about his Jewish roots.

In fact, although I'm not a fan of his music, when Drake is mentioned in a conversation, I have the uncontrollable urge to say, "You know he's Jewish, right?"

Drake's newest music video for the song HYFR (Hey yeah, f***ing right), filmed in a Miami shul and depicting Drake's "re-bar mitzvah," may be exactly what some of his Jewish fans were hoping for, but it's left others confused and even offended.

First of all, the images don't really match his lyrics. I mean, if you watch this video on mute, it looks pretty innocuous. It begins with a message that says, "On October 24th, 2011, Aubrey 'Drake' Graham chose to get re-bar mitzvah'd as a re-commitment to the Jewish religion." Drake raps in front of Miami's Temple Israel. Drake, wearing a Kipah and Tallit, reads the Torah from the bimah. Drake's friends hora around him and lift him on a chair. There's even some bagels and challah thrown in for good measure.

The lyrics paint an entire different picture:
“But she was no angel, and we never waited / I took her for sushi, she wanted to f*** / So we took it to go, told them don’t even plate it.”

The fact that these lyrics are being coupled with images of a synagogue and one of Judaism's most meaningful customs has some Jews upset.

JTA reported that Temple Israel’s president, Ben Kuehne, said that the video rather than the song is "an embracing of religious passage."

After watching the final product, images and lyrics combined, Kuehne said, "Temple Israel does not adopt, condone, or sponsor any aspect of the Drake video, and was not involved in its production," but added that he hoped "Jewish youth will see the Drake video at least in part as a reminder to ‘re-commit' themselves to their Jewish religion."

He also pointed out the synagogue's Torah scroll was not used and that the scenes where Drake appears to be rapping in the sanctuary were inserted post-production.

While Kuehne made a point of distancing himself from Drake's video, Yitz Jordan, an Orthodox Jewish rapper, aka Y-Love, told JTA he is thrilled to see Drake publicly embracing his Judaism.

"I've been saying for years, 'What's it gonna take to put Drake in a yarmulke,’" Y-Love said. "I've been clamoring for Drake's Jewish visibility forever."

He dismissed the lyrics, saying he doesn't listen to Drake for the content.

"I'm ecstatic just to see Drake in a yarmulke period." He added, "This is going to help a lot of Jewish kids of color stand up in the hood. Drake's doing this is really going to help those kids."

The video’s YouTube page also had some viewers weighing in on the content and Drake's decision to flaunt his religious roots.

"[Am] I the only one that thinks Drake is the only Jew that can pull this shit off?" wrote one poster.

Others were just confused:

"I'm not saying anything bad, like I love Drake, but can someone please explain the video in deep description, I get it's his re-commitment to like, the jewish faith, like a barmitzfa or whatever but I seriously don't get the video."

"So uh.. what this gotta do with Judaism again?" another asked.

And then there were those who were downright offended.

"What's the point of committing to a religion, whose principles you are not going to follow... This is just making a mockery of Judaism. I do not practice Judaism, and even I am offended," one comment read.

"I am disappointed in YOU DRAKE! I would have thought YOU of all musicians had more respect for your religion. This video, placed with this song is COMPLETE BLASPHEMY! I WAS a HUGE Drake fan until I watched this video," wrote another.

What do you guys think?

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