Jewish hip-hop: Matisyahu and Hip Hop Hoodios

Because I work at a newspaper, I spend a lot of time reading wire stories from papers across the country. I came across one from the Albany (N.Y.) Times Union about the emergence of Jewish hip-hop in the mainstream. Being that I’m half-Jewish (the other half Irish-Catholic) and a fan of hip-hop, I was naturally intrigued.

Matisyahu — the self-proclaimed “Hasidic Reggae Superstar” (as if there are a lot of those) — has earned some blog time for his Live at Stubb’s album. The guy’s back story is very interesting. Among the highlights: He won’t perform on Jewish holidays or the Sabbath (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) and he regularly consults with his rabbi before touring so as not to violate Jewish customs.

Then there’s Hip Hop Hoodios, a group its members call a “Latino-Jewish urban music collective.” And I gotta say: Havana Nagila is great. Opening line: “I’m a Jew for thugs / a Jew for hugs.” You can buy their full-length Agua Pa La Gente here.

Just upon first listen, I think the best part is that neither of these acts comes off as a novelty; their religion is the foundation, but the music is strong in itself.

Matisyahu | King Without a Crown

Hip Hop Hoodios | Havana Nagila
Hip Hop Hoodios | Raza Hoodia

In other news, I gotta give a shout-out to Chad at Everybody Cares, Everybody Understands. My brother e-mailed me the other day to let me know how much he liked Everybody Cares. So I messaged Chad to joke (or was it?) that my brother likes his blog better than mine.But that’s OK, because Chad has got us covered with Elliott Smith (including an excellent post on his old band Heatmiser) and some pretty sweet covers on Saturdays (for those at the computer on weekends). And I know his blog is money because he talked about his wife’s worry of his blog obsession, which sounds awfully familiar around these parts. Blog widows, unite! Anyway, check his site and all the others to the right.

4 thoughts on “Jewish hip-hop: Matisyahu and Hip Hop Hoodios”

  1. I just heard about Matisyahurecently…few months ago.

    Pretty good and interesting. Not sure if I like the image better than the music, tho (something I hate to admit even thinking). What’s cool too is that he has a live album recorded at Stubb’s in the ATX… Cool to me I guess since I live there…



  2. Saw Matisyahu here in Atlanta back in February of this year. Might have been a month after the Jimmy Kimmel appearance, but it was packed to the walls. You’ve got to respect what the man is doing with his music– proliferating teaching through a medium [& market] largely untouched–& with so much success!

  3. Great post. i’d never heard of Hip Hop Hoodios — pretty cool (and hilarious at times).

    on the jewish/semetic-centric tip, do you remember Blood of Abraham? they were on Eazy-E’s ruthless records & i think only released one album back in like ’93 or ’94 (well, i don’t remember seeing anything else by them after that). Not bad. i had a mix tape w/ the BoA album & Brand Nubian that got a lot of play 10-12 yrs ago.

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