I admit that I have not been keeping up with worldwide popular culture as much as I should, and I figured by the time that the New York Times has an article on something, it is already passe.
But watching this video from a popular German Jewish rapper, singing in German and proud of his Judaism, is almost surreal.
ESSEN, Germany — A yellow star of David — the sort the Nazis forced Jews to wear — on the sleeve of a white sweatshirt appears near the start of the rapper Sun Diego’s “Yellow Bar Mitzvah” video. Seconds later, a scene shows a yellow Lamborghini in the middle of a neon star of David. Jets of flame from a massive gold menorah punctuate rapid-fire rhymes about guns, drugs and money.
“Yellow Bar Mitzvah,” released last year, is a rare German gangsta rap recording in which Hebrew features prominently in the lyrics.
And while videos mixing menorahs and yellow stars of David with guns, sports cars and bikini-clad women pushing wheelbarrows full of cocaine would raise eyebrows anywhere, in today’s Germany they are particularly notable: Elements of the country’s booming rap and hip-hop scene have been criticized as anti-Semitic in recent weeks.
On April 12, a major German music prize was awarded to a duo whose album included the line, “My body is better defined than an Auschwitz inmate’s.” At the ceremony, called the Echo Awards, the rappers were booed. I n the weeks since, several prominent musicians returned their awards in protest, and the awards were canceled. The controversy sparked a national debate over rising anti-Semitism among young people and immigrants, two groups most likely to listen to rap.
Sun Diego, meanwhile, has succeeded while proudly proclaiming his Jewish identity. The rapper, born Dimitrij Chpakov, has 272,000 Instagram followers, and “Yellow Bar Mitzvah,” released last year, has racked up more than 9.7 million views on YouTube. Another track, “Eloah,” is closing in on 6 million views. Sun Diego’s autobiography, “Yellow Bar Mitzvah: The Seven Portals From Moloch to Fame,” co-authored with the German journalist Dennis Sand, spent weeks at the top of German best-seller lists after it went on sale in late February.
In his recent take on the 1980s Falco hit “Rock Me Amadeus,” he boasts in a lyric that “a Jew is making a new German wave.”
Sun Diego’s popularity shows that “You can’t pigeonhole German rap fans,” a Berlin-based hip-hop critic, Viola Funk, said in an interview. “Fans aren’t just interested in the art, but in the person behind it — that’s why it’s such a great thing when there is an unbelievably popular Jewish rapper.”
Here’s his recent hit “Eloah” with unmistakenly Jewish (and gangsta) themes. Lyrics here.
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