The Arty Semite

Monday Music: Furious Hip-Hop for Comp. Lit. Majors

By Mordechai Shinefield

  • Print
  • Share Share

Courtesy of Yitz Jordan/Shemspeed Records. Photo by Jonathan Hunter.

Y-Love, also known as Yitz Jordan, is a black Jewish convert from Baltimore who feels just as comfortable at underground freestyles as he does at the Sabbath table. The son of a Puerto Rican mother and an Ethiopian-American father, Y-Love converted in 2000 at Brooklyn’s Conversion to Judaism Resource Center and has since become one of the most outspoken Orthodox artists alive. He makes hip-hop music in the tradition of N.W.A. and Public Enemy, raging political tirades chock full of deft wordplay and witty rhymes. He’s also, by self-description, “furious.”

Over the past few years Y-Love has undergone something of a musical transformation. His 2008 debut, “This Is Babylon,” borrowed heavily from backpacker socially conscious hip-hop artists like Taleb Kweli. His material traded heavily on his lingual prowess — often substituting Bakhtian polyphony and code swapping for more traditional hip-hop wordplay. You need a master’s degree in jargon to decode the in-jokes of most contemporary hip-hop artists. For Y-Love, you might be better equipped with a degree in comparative literature.

Y-Love sings in English, Hebrew, Arabic and Yiddish, often overlaid on traditional hip-hop beats. On his new EP, “See Me,” though, he has changed up the music itself — rejecting standard sounds for a more global tone recently popularized by artists like Diplo, M.I.A. and Major Lazer. He sounds more cosmopolitan, and better, than ever before. On the title track, “See Me,” he even draws on Lady Gaga, with a chorus that sings, “Who do you think you are? / Oh, you’re a superstar.”

Listen to ‘See Me’:

He hasn’t jettisoned, however, his message of political radicalism and community. In addition to frequent dispatches over social media about issues that trouble him (from rabbinical interference in the arts to worldwide freedom movements), his lyrics are still predominately about his political beliefs. On “This Is Unity,” he repeats over and over, “Olam Achod, Hashem Achod, HaAm Achod / This is Unity” (“The world is one, God is one, the nation is one”), punctuated with verses like, “When I say revolution / You say excuses. / Y-Love, the new scene / the old scheme is useless.” “See Me” may lack a banging single to help spread the gospel, but the old ferocity is back, and Y-Love is still furious as ever.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Yitz Jordan, This Is Babylon, Y-Love, Taleb Kweli, Shemspeed, See Me, Public Enemy, N.W.A., Music, Mordechai Shinefield, Major Lazer, M.I.A., Lady Gaga, Hip-Hop, Diplo

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • What do you think of Wonder Woman's new look?
  • "She said that Ruven Barkan, a Conservative rabbi, came into her classroom, closed the door and turned out the lights. He asked the class of fourth graders to lie on the floor and relax their bodies. Then, he asked them to pray for abused children." Read Paul Berger's compelling story about a #Savannah community in turmoil:
  • “Everything around me turns orange, then a second of silence, then a bomb goes off!" First installment of Walid Abuzaid’s account of the war in #Gaza:
  • Is boredom un-Jewish?
  • Let's face it: there's really only one Katz's Delicatessen.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.