Every artist is shaped by their upbringing, their life experiences, and in many cases, religious faith.
The rap scene is no different. Many high profile rappers address their cultural and religious experience in both their lyrics, and in interviews.
In this article, we’ll hear from some of the most famous rappers who have been influenced by their Jewish roots.
Let’s jump in and find out more about ten Jewish rappers you didn’t know are Jewish.
10. Nissim Black
Israeli rapper, songwriter and record producer Nissim Black began life under the stage name D. Black and released his debut album The Cause & Effect in 2006.
Following a violent stand-off with a rap rival, Black reportedly sought a more spiritual path, turning to his local synagogue and converting to Orthodox Judaism.
“The more I searched, the more I found I was lacking authenticity. ” the rapper told the Guardian.
“At the root of Christianity and Islam, I found Judaism. I had a fiery, burning passion to join the Jewish people.”
9. Craig David
British singer and songwriter Craig David rose to fame in 1999 after featuring on the hit single ‘Re-Rewind’ by Artful Dodger.
His debut studio album Born To Do It was released in 2000. David has twenty UK top 40 singles, seven UK top 40 albums and has sold over 15 million records worldwide.
The rapper’s father is Afro-Grenadian and his mother an Anglo-Jew. David’s maternal Grandfather was an Orthodox Jew and his maternal Grandmother fully converted to Judaism.
“I only awoke to my Jewish heritage later in life.” he explained in an interview with The Big Issue.
“Culturally it felt like it wasn’t leaning either way in terms of my mum being Jewish or my dad being Christian. We were just living the life.”
8. Hoodie Allen
Born and raised in New York, Hoodie Allen began working at Google before eventually quitting to pursue his dream of a full-time music career.
In 2012, the Jewish rapper released his first EP All American which reached number ten on the Billboard 200. Two years later, his debut studio album People Keep Talking sold over 30,000 copies, debuting at number eight.
“I grew up going to a Conservative temple. Both of my parents are Jewish.” Hoodie told the Atlanta Jewish Times in 2015.
“For a while I probably was most involved out of all the people in my family…I think everyone experiences or doesn’t experience religion or spirituality in their own way. I’m not very outward, but for me it’s a good centring point for morality and stuff like that.”
7. The Alchemist
American record producer, DJ and songwriter The Alchemist began his music career in 1991 as part of hip hop duo The Whooliganz.
The Jewish producer has previously collaborated with many of the greatest talents in the rap game, including the likes of Nas, Eminem and Kendrick Lamar.
In 2015, he released Israeli Salad, an instrumental record constructed around samples of Israeli songs including a track titled ‘Bone Thugs N’ Haifa.’
“Alchemist is the guy who everybody looks up to” said hip-hop podcasters ItsTheReal. “Like, ‘Oh, s***, that’s an actual cool Jew in this space.'”
6. Lil Dicky
Lil Dicky is an American rapper, comedian and actor. He rose to prominence with the release of his music video for the song ‘Ex-Boyfriend’ in 2013.
The track gained huge popularity on YouTube with more than one million views in 24 hours. He soon released his debut album Professional Rapper in 2015.
A proudly Jewish rapper, Lil Dicky has shattered stereotypes and built a loyal fanbase. Hailed as “the most Jewish rapper in the game,” he has admitted that he often exaggerated his beliefs in the media.
“Honestly, I think I’ve overblown my Judaism in terms of how actually observant I am.” the rapper told The CJN. “I’m not observant in the slightest but I definitely identify culturally with it.”
American reggae rapper, beatboxer and alternative rock artist Matisyahu first gained international attention with his 2005 album Live at Stubb’s.
The artist is synonymous with blending traditional Jewish themes with reggae, rock and hip-hop sounds.
Matisyahu has a Hasidic background and used his roots to evolve as an artist, exploring various genres and breaking boundaries as an innovative force in rap music. He has been known to express views relating to his beliefs on social media.
“When I started becoming religious ten years ago it was a very natural and organic process.” Matisyahu explained on Twitter after shaving his beard – which was reported by The Times Of Israel.
“It was my choice. My journey to discover my roots and explore Jewish spirituality, not through books but through real life.”
4. Doja Cat
Doja Cat was born and raised in Los Angeles. She began releasing music on SoundCloud with her song ‘So High’ grabbing the attention of Kemosabe and RCA Records – where she signed a joint deal before producing her debut EP Purrr! in 2014.
With a skill for blending several genres, Doja Cat rapidly became one of the most exciting young voices in mainstream music, utilising a range of catchy hooks and clever wordplay in her lyrics.
The Jewish rapper unleashed her breakout hit ‘Say So’ in 2019 which catapulted her to superstardom.
“My mom was kinda a hip-hop head, really ironic because like – I’m Jewish.” Doja cat revealed in an interview on The Hotbox.
“My grandma’s Jewish, she’s white, and she was never exposed to music like that.”
3. Action Bronson
Action Bronson is not only a rapper but also a songwriter, chef, wrestler and television presenter.
Originally from Queens in New York, his musical career began back in 2011 with the release of mixtape Bon Appetit ….. Bitch!!!!!. He later produced debut album Dr. Lecter independently and in 2012 signed his first major-label deal with Warner Bros. Records.
Alongside his musical endeavours, Bronson has successfully ventured into the worlds of television and writing. Whilst he rarely speaks of Jewish heritage, the rapper has been known to speak fondly about his upbringing along with the privileged position he finds himself in today.
“Not many people get this type of opportunity.” Bronson explained in an interview with XXL.
“Especially growing up the way I grew up. I grew up in an immigrant family. My mother’s, like, a hippy, white woman; Jewish from Brooklyn. She’s the illest ever.”
Canadian rap superstar Drake has dominated the charts since making his debut in 2010 with the album The N Soundtrack.
He has won five Grammy Awards, six American Music Awards and three Juno Awards.
The multi award-winning rapper has unapologetically embraced his Jewish heritage, making him one of the industry’s trailblazers in terms of discussions around religion and race.
“It was all white Jewish kids and it was tough,” he told Rolling Stone in 2014.
“I didn’t have the worst time, but I did have a hard time. I was always the last kid to get the invite to the party.”
Thanks to his phenomenal success, Drake is undoubtedly the most famous Jewish rapper in the world today.
1. Mac Miller
Mac Miller was an American rapper and record producer who began his career within the Pittsburgh’s hip-hop scene in 2007 aged fifteen.
In 2010, he signed a record deal with independent label Rostrum Records, releasing breakthrough mixtapes K.I.D.S and Best Day Ever before making debut studio album Blue Slide Park in 2011.
Tragically, Miller died in 2018 as a result of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, cocaine and alcohol. Before his death he gave an interview to Forbes and talked about the changing attitudes towards Jewish artists in the genre.
“This is a world filled with so much variety of culture that every time something different is out it’s good, you know,” Miller said in one interview.
“Because it’s like ‘oh, a Jewish rapper!’ That’s why I think I could be a Jewish rapper… So you know, now people in hip-hop or other people that didn’t think Jewish people could be so cool, you know, they can!”
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