Hip-Hop in the Holy Land
starring Mike Skinner
Hip hop in the Holy Land? Riiighttt… Seems pretty weird until you think about it and then the bulb lights up: Hip Hop comes from the disaffected and outcast; words are more important than beats, and even if change is far away, your complaints are formalized. In New York of the 1980s that lost generation was urban black, but today in Israel, it’s everybody. That’s the point the show wraps up with: Rebel Sun from Lucille Crew was the only person interviewed who held no religious beliefs, not political aims, and arrived as a tourist passing through Jerusalem. He fell in love with the place and has a unique insight; all the other interviews had some sort of civic axe to grind: Messianic Jews, displaced Palestinians, Christian Minorities, and Zionists all have their say. The music scene seem centered around the more modern Tel Aviv and not so much in J-Ru (as Mr. Sun calls it.) There’s no money, of course and only only one guy Tamir Nafar (Da Arabian MC’s) has any claim to recording success. Even that’s a tough gig in such a small and introspective county but here’s the best quote of the whole series: “I’m in Rolling Stone, so fuck them.”
But is the music any good? I’m not a big fan of the genre, but some of the raps feel forced. Some artists seem to have the rhythm down, but all ultimately come back to a political passion that the music only seems to intensify, not diffuse. One featured track “Falafel Sharma” was a hit, but it sticks to food and the entire rap is just those two words. But it’s pressed on yellow vinyl, so that’s a cool point. In another segment we meet Ultra Orthodox Rap Pioneer Ohad Cohen, he has the beard and the hair and the hat, and it’s just odd watching him roller blade around town as he waits for the real messiah to show up. That other one? Don’t get him going. Is he angry? Hell, yeah and so is everyone else it seems. But better to rap than riot.
There are six episodes under this title, each about 10 minutes long. Mr. Skinner is an excellent interviewer, he keeps things neutral but interesting. He can mix pretty well and has a great accent that sort of sounds Brit, sort of sounds East Coast Urban, but sounds great on air. Have I changed my mind on the Middle East? Nope, I don’t see anyone making up anytime soon. But that keeps the music sharp.