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Drake Is Now the Man

Jewish rapper all-star offers the platonic ideal of the American bar mitzvah. No, really.

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Hip-hop mensch Drake(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Even for those of us who enjoy our pop with a dash of yiddishkeit, the news a few months back that chart topping rapper Drake (the son of an African-American father and Canadian Jewish mother) would be re-enacting his bar mitzvah for a music video merited a bit of dread.

Pop culture portrayals of bar mitzvahs (Just off the top of my head: Community, Entourage, 30 Rock, A Serious Man) tend to lean towards the negative. The parties are kitschy and opulent, the guests nebbish and uncoordinated, the kids are spoiled or uninterested, the parents hapless and the actual religious ceremony boring affairs devoid of meaning with a light mocking of the idea that reading from the torah makes that small figure an adult. Are many bar mitzvahs like this? Yes. But not all.

So kudos to Drake, because the video for HYFR (ft. Lil Wayne) not only avoids all this, but also, and hear me out, offers the platonic ideal of American Judaism.

Just a few highlights: During the shots in the synagogue, both of Drake’s sides, Jewish and Black, sit engaged as Drake, in tallis and kippah and flanked by an Israeli and American flag, solemnly reads at the bema At the after party, yes, people are drinking Manischewitz out of the bottle, but the people dancing aren’t uncoordinated or bringing ridiculously impressive moves to the floor. They’re just having fun because they’re celebrating something both common and important: the continuation of a thousands year old tradition.*

Nothing nebbish about that, not bad for a music video, and not bad for the Jews. Let’s see Jay-Z and Kanye top that.

*Also, Lil Wayne is wearing a panda mask.

Related: Jewish Rapper’s Bickering Beef With Kanye
Golden Boys
Have Bat Mitzvahs Gotten To Glitzy?

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anabeth says:

HORRIBLE!

    I totally agree with you and do not understand why “The Tablet” would post this.  I find  the language of hip hop does not belong on a “Tablet” post and I am offended by the music juxtaposed with the interior view of a synagogue.

Drake’s autotuned vocals are painful to hear, and I’d rather see the portrayals of kitschy, over-the-top parties for spoiled kids with uncoordinated old people dancing than whatever the heck this is.

I wouldn’t say it’s horrible, at least not in how it engages the ceremony itself. I agree with Dan Klein that it is respectful of that, and showing the meaning behind it (both spiritual and communal). The video does engage certain visual tropes you often find in hiphop (to put it in a bloodless, academic way) that I’m not entirely comfortable with, but all in all, I would say that Drake has combined two different aspects of his identity (Jewishness and hiphop) in a way that shows how they can mutally reinforce each other.

mildchild says:

I’m strangely moved, actually. It’s actually the opposite of horrible, when you consider it against the days when pop culture-makers often obscured their Jewish roots (e.g. Bob Dylan – who is great, don’t get me wrong). A black Jewish rapper celebrating, via music video, his bar mitzvah in a perhaps profane but sincere way says very good things for the Jews, in my opinion.

In a word. it’s just ”Bad taste”. I like pop & hip hoop music. but, this is no way to portray any ritual or ceremony that takes place in a synagogue!! 

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Drake Is Now the Man

Jewish rapper all-star offers the platonic ideal of the American bar mitzvah. No, really.

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