On the surface, the story of up-and-coming hip-hop star Aubrey “Drake” Graham isn’t all that unusual. Despite his portrayal of Jimmy on the Canadian television show “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” his rise to music stardom followed a well-tread path. He wrote and produced music in his spare time, put it on mix tapes, and did what he could to try and get his music recognized. Eventually, after his third mix tape, people took notice and he was signed to a contract. Though his rise since being signed has been meteoric, there is a much more interesting aspect to his story. According to Heeb magazine, Drake is the “first-ever black Jewish rap star.”
Born to an African-American father and a Jewish mother, Drake spent his youth going to Jewish schools, “where nobody understood what it was like to be black and Jewish.” He had to put up with being called names, and that “when kids are young it’s hard for them to understand the make-up of religion and race.” Luckily he was imbued with a strong Jewish identity and as an adult he doesn’t shy away from his heritage, even wearing a “diamond-studded Chai (life)” necklace on the cover of Vibe magazine.
Finding mainstream success and proudly displaying his Judaism puts Drake in a perfect position to serve as a roll model for all the other mixed-heritage Jews in our community. Not only speaking for African-American Jews, but all children of intermarriage. He could help send the message that there are countless others out there who have trouble finding acceptance in the Jewish community because of their background and we need to do all we can to welcome them in.
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