Y-Love / This is Babylon
Y-Love / This is Babylon
Mudular Moods cnc0300, 2008
Every so often someone plays me some astonishing music—Saul Williams, for instance, and tells me, "This is rap, what do you think?" And I love it. But most of what I hear on the radio is commercial drivel. I couldn't tell the difference between Fifty Cent or Kanye West. So, if I'm writing about a hip-hop album, all we really know is that it sounds like hip-hop, but for a change I have reason to pay attention. And someone who really knows the genre will have to put this into context—if there is a context for a black kid converted to Chasidic Judaism with a sharp eye for social justice. Nothing here about his sexual exploits or accumulated bling. Think of his as just another good Jewish boy paying attention to the 613.
Y-Love. I've been reading about him on Orthodox Anarchist and Shemspeed and Jew*School and other blogs. One of his cuts made it to the Zeek Magazine Jewish Music sampler last fall. Chilling sounds, great beats. A fascinating set of hip hop rhymes. If Matisyahu is party-line channeling hasidic, and SoCalled is out there mining a Yiddish secular cultural fusion, then Y-Love is someplace much harder to define. We're in challenging times and need to figure out ways to rethink; it's Y-Love telling it like it may be, blending in global hip hop beats with the best of them.
The album opens with pure social critique: "Temporary resident in an enslaved ghetto settlement / No freedom when Nebuchadnezzar be the president / Untruths are self-evident / Irrelevant—fist, gun, or blade, freed man or slave / … / Our minds are intertwined on high by divine rays! / Can you bring the end of days with a phrase? / I stand and await the day the dead will be raised / (Gonna keep on speaking Aramaic, this is Babylon …) / Babylon, land of the law that crime pays / …. From there, we party like its 5769 and "Bring it own down." Y-Love throws down Hebrew, English, Aramaic, Arabic, as needed in a seamless poetic flow.
Later, in "Why Ain't We There:" Yidden living in my grill / All in my video / Understand my words, but they still don't hear me, tho / Bounce to the beis before you bounce to the bass / … / Watch as I work this / Style with a purpose / Halachic observance / …. Secularist though I may be, it's hard to ignore the beat, and even harder not to pay attention to what he's saying.
To make sure that we're paying attention, Y-Love trades rhymes with some essential Middle-Eastern voices, such as Hadag Nachash's Shaanan Street or Palestinian rapper Saz. Then delivers the numbers on "State of the Nation." "Where's all the people at / Where's our people at?" and it clear that he isn't just referring to those supposedly bound by the 613 commandments.
Do I agree? Do I understand the message? Do I need to? Face it. If you are digging into Jewish tradition, and grappling with the reality of Israel, Palestine, and social injustice here and elsewhere, Y-Love is laying some thoughts on you. Worth listening to. It's about time someone raised a voice outside of the same old political stalemates, but from inside Jewish culture. Worth mixing this in with that klezmer stuff I usually write about, here and there, to remind yourself that some of the world is dancing to some different beats. Y-Love, in particular, is worth paying good attention to. "Forget the big picture / change the frame of your mind."
Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 29 June 2008.
- This is Babylon 5:37
- Bump (lyrics: Osher Shvartsman) 5:12
- Bring it on down 4:36
- Keep the party divine 3:38
- Check the technique 3:21
- Exhibit A: The diagnosis 1:03
- New disease 5:21
- 6000 4:28
- This is a test 0:19
- State of the nation 4:37
- Mind transit 3:55
- From Brooklyn to Ramle 3:58
- Mt. Sinai 3:29
- Mehadrin' rhymin' 5:22
Lyrics: Yitz Jordan; Music: produced and arranged by Jake Break, J. Schwarz, Aural pusher productions, except Mt. Sinai, produced by Alon Cohen for 12 tribe sound