Yesterday in Tablet, David Meir Grossman wrote about two chart topping Jewish rappers: Drake and the nascent Mac Miller, whose debut album, “Blue Slide Park,” landed atop the Billboard’s Top 200 last week.
Grossman claims they represent a “golden age of Jewish rap.” His evidence? There are two Jewish rappers successful at the same time. This is akin to saying there are two successful short actors, so we must be in a golden age of short actors.
So why do Grossman (and others) attempt try to make a Jewish mountain out of a Semitic molehill?
Jews view participation in hip-hop as a novelty, as something demanding explanation because somehow Jews are not cool enough to do it. We fetishize tribe members for being successful at something we don’t think we’re naturally good at.
As a mediocre breakdancer myself, I’m frequently asked if I’m the only Jewish b-girl active in the scene. Answer: hardly. While I humor the inquirers, I often reply with a question of my own — why is it strange to encounter a Jewish breakdancer? Why should this be surprising?
It wasn’t always this way. During the early 20th century, when Jews were largely part of the immigrant, urban working class, participation in the jazz scene wasn’t seen as much of a stretch. But now, with Jews firmly established in the upper middle class, we tend to view ourselves as brainy and nerdy. Being a hip-hop emcee doesn’t jive with our communal identity.
Articles like Grossman’s are indicative of this collective self-image. Mac Miller and Drake are not fascinated by their Jewishness, nor do they apologize for it. They don’t feel the need to explain to themselves and others why their Jewish identities are compatible (or incompatible) with the music they create and love.
I’m not saying that Jewish writers shouldn’t write about the religiosity and culture of artists. I would have been content with an article about Drake, Miller or both. But the attempt to link them and their music to Judaism when no connection exists feels contrived.
As Regina in “Mean Girls” said — stop trying to make Jew happen. Or something like that.