Feb. 8, 2011
Last Saturday’s Hip-Hop Night at Cholmondeley’s featured energetic performances from three Brandeis students, as well as headliner Y-Love, a self-proclaimed “Jewish hip-hop artist” who tries to promote “positive hip-hop” through his songs.
Naveh Halperin ’12 and Shea Riester ’12, collectively known as Two Spirit Ones, emceed the event and performed two songs of their own. Halperin’s song, admittedly about students’ self-esteem issues, sounded like spoken-word poetry laid over simple synthesized beats. Riester performed a song of his own next, which criticized the obsession many of his peers have with digital media and the Internet. Both members of the duo are Jewish, and elements of their religious upbringings were apparent in their raps. While their songs were appropriate for a night featuring several Jewish artists, their performance also included perhaps the most crass lyric of the night, rapped by Riester: “I want my rhymes to ring eternal, like Anne Frank’s journal.” Not the best moment in Jewish entertainment.
After Two Spirit Ones’ short performance, Brandeis first-year and rapper Saz.É (Osaze Akerejah) took the stage. Saz.É has recorded one mixtape, Little Black Box, and is at work on a second, called Invincible Tomorrow, which he plans to release this summer. Both these recordings were made near the artist’s home in Franklin, N. J.
Saz.É was a better lyricist and performer than the previous act, mixing more complex beats with personal stories. The artist clutched the microphone with one hand and pantomimed lyrics with the other.
Saz.É started off his performance with one of his higher-intensity tracks, “War Room,” which was about taking back the music industry from acts who aren’t “real” or who aren’t truly interested in connecting with an audience. Before performing each song, he provided background information on what the track was about and what state of mind he was in when he wrote it. Most of Saz.É’s songs deal with experiences from his own life, including one about being involved in a self-professed “love square” with three women from home. This song, “Last Summer,” was his best performance of the night. Saz.É has also performed at Snow White and other events on campus.
The last performer of the night was Y-Love (real name Yitz Jordan), an Orthodox Jew from Baltimore and his DJ Diwon (Erez Safar). Y-Love performed songs off of his first album, This is Babylon, as well as his upcoming release, This is Unity. The rapper arrived at Chum’s wearing a sweater vest, skinny jeans and Timberlands, an outfit more appropriate for a Brooklyn hipster than a man whose music is compared to Matisyahu’s. But as soon as Y-Love started rapping, it was clear that religion was the main focus of his songs.
The artist rapped extremely fast, making more than a smattering of lyrics difficult to pick out. Yet the word “kosher” or and the number “613” (referring to the 613 mitzvot, or commandments, mentioned in the Torah) were mentioned in nearly every chorus. Y-Love was focused on spreading his message of spirituality: Many of his songs also included verses from Jewish texts or mentions of Jerusalem, and at one point he called the crowd of students “beautiful children of HaShem,” a Hebrew name for God.
Despite declaring his disdain for artists who rap about bling, girls and other less spiritual matters, the rapper incorporated several more conventional tracks from other hip-hop artists into his show. The DJ Khaled egoistic anthem “All I Do is Win” and Busta Rhymes’ “Arab Money” were both big crowd pleasers.
Y-Love is also an educator in the Jewish community, in addition to his musical pursuits. He has taught at yeshivas in Brooklyn and has mixed rap, graffiti and digital presentations into his more traditional classes. The artist says his goals are to “get Torah into the hearts and minds” of his listeners and that he expresses his religion through his lyrics.
Hip-Hop Night at Chum’s featured intelligent artists using their talents to promote unity and respect among their listeners. This unique type of rap certainly has a place on the Brandeis campus, where so many students are working toward these same goals.