At last night’s MTV Video Music Awards, rapper Drake accepted the award for Best Hip-Hop Video for his song “HYFR.” The music video, which made the internet rounds when it was released earlier in 2012, features Drake, a Canadian Black Jewish rapper, surrounded by Jewish friends and features several scenes of a Bar Mitzvah service and reception (although this one probably doesn’t have the traditional Coke and Pepsi-like games many of us remember!). It is worth mentioning that the video was not well-received by everyone; however, it won the VMA, giving Drake the opportunity to mention his Judaism.
What is notable about both the video and Drake’s acceptance speech is his highlighting of his Black and Jewish upbringing. Since becoming popular a few years ago, Drake has repeatedly talked about his Jewish heritage, as well as his pride in being both Black and Jewish. In an MTV interview back in April 2012, he stated:
“I’m proud, a proud young Jewish boy. When I had a Bar Mitzvah back in the day, my mom really didn’t have that much money. We kinda just did it in the basement of an Italian restaurant, which I guess is kinda like a faux pas,” Drake told Cash Money videographer Derrick G on the video’s Miami set [of the “HYFR” video shoot]. “I told myself that if I ever got rich, I’d throw myself a re-Bar Mitzvah. That’s the concept for the video.”
What is exciting about Drake’s promoting of his heritage is that it usually isn’t seen in the Hip-Hop world. He shares his pride with fellow rappers like Y-Love, a Black Jewish artist based in Los Angeles, who earlier this year “came out,” saying he was proud to be gay, Black, and Jewish.
The fact that these two men feel comfortable enough with both their ethnicities and their careers to proclaim them on national TV and in social media is yet another sign that the tent of the Jewish community continues to widen. There is no longer one way to “be Jewish,” or one way to “look Jewish.”
And if Drake does throw himself another Bar Mitzvah, I would love to hear his recitation of his Torah portion. It will probably have a “sick beat.”