The Jewish Week explored the flap over hip-hop superstar Drake’s latest music video, which features scenes of him and fellow rapper Lil Wayne partying at his own “re-bar mitzvah” at a synagogue in Miami, while performing a song that contains profanities and sexual references:
Drake, whose real name is Aubrey Graham, was raised by his Jewish mother in Toronto and attended a Jewish day school. “I went to a Jewish school, where nobody understood what it was like to be black and Jewish,” he told Heeb magazine in 2010. “When kids are young it’s hard for them to understand the make-up of religion and race.”
The 25-year-old rapper today us one of the biggest names in hip-hop. He has been very public in embracing his Jewish roots, wearing a Chai pendant on the cover of Vibe magazine.
Initially, Ben Kuehne, the president of the synagogue, Temple Israel, defended the video, calling it “an embracing of religious passage.”
But once Kuehne had a chance to review the video and the lyrics more closely, he said, “The complete video is certainly not consistent with Temple Israel’s longstanding history and reputation as a progressive voice in the Jewish Reform movement.” He added, “Temple Israel does not adopt, condone, or sponsor any aspect of the Drake video, and was not involved in its production.”
Nevertheless, Kuehne said, he hoped “Jewish youth will see the Drake video at least in part as a reminder to ‘re-commit’ themselves to their Jewish religion.”
Drake got support from another rapper, Yitz Jordan, an Orthodox Jewish rapper who goes by the stage name Y-Love.
“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.
“You’re not really sitting there trying to learn about the system of wealth distribution in America,” Y-Love said. “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, which has been viewed by almost 1.7 million people since it was posted on YouTube April 6, is below, but please be aware that it contains explicit lyrics. Do you think Drake is being respectful of his religion in the video, or offensive? Let us know what you think in the comments!