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From The Ghetto “moved by Y-Love’s life story and choic-

es, and inspired by how he uses his

individual kochos hanefesh (talents) to

To The Shtetl: serve G-d.”

Jordan first began rapping while

An Interview With studying in Yeshivat Ohr Sameach in


Hip-Hop Artist Y-Love “Hip hop …for me growing up was just

something on the radio… I was never
into underground hip-hop until yeshiva.
BY SAMUEL SOKOL I grew up listening to punk rock and
heavy metal.”
Swaying to sharp, syncopated “I wasn’t really connecting to
rhythms, a small group of American [Gemara], until one day… [my chavruta]
yeshiva students sat entranced, listening just dropped a beat and starts with a lit-
to a live preview of the latest mix tape tle chorus and… that became my style of
from emerging hip-hop star Y-Love. learning.”
As a bearded bochur sat beat-boxing, Y- He ran into opposition in the Beis
Love, whose real name is Yitz Jordan, fre- Midrash, but he stands by his style.
netically rapped in a mix of Aramaic, “Some of the bochurim were like ‘Oh
Hebrew, and Yiddish. this is so goyish. This is like shatnes;

Photo By Mike Sohn

This private concert in the home of how could you bring this into such a
Yeshivat Reishit Yerushalayim program holy place? It’s such a goyish style of
director Rabbi Judah Mischel was part of music.’”
Jordan’s current Israel tour. “We went from the intermediate pro-
Jordan’s music was called the “sound- gram to the beis midrash program in one intellectual component. As Jordan put it, din and convert.”
track to social progression” by the hip- and a half z’manim and I still remember he was not yet able to tie his shoes, how- Currently following Sepharadi minhag-
hop magazine URB. So how does such an the Gemaras that I learned back then ever, he knew that there was a group of im, Jordan converted in Borough Park and
act end up in the living room of a rabbi, because we learned it to a beat.” people called Jews, and that he wanted to still dresses in a chassidic style. He is also
performing for boys who spend all day He said that the style of learning does be one of them. His grandmother, who a fluent Yiddish speaker. He now lives on
engrossed in the Torah? not matter, but that the main thing is to grew up serving as a shabbos goy and play- Long Island.
Yitz Jordan is a convert to Judaism, a internalize the Torah in the head and in ing with Jewish children, also had an During his Beit Shemesh show, Y-Love
Yiddish speaking, black hat wearing, the heart. intense interest in Judaism. explained to the students how important
African-American who has been What began as a tool for Torah study Jordan began drawing six pointed stars it is to appreciate being born Jewish
described as “making hip-hop kosher.” eventually morphed into a career. all over the house and later began wear- “If people even realize that being
Rabbi Mischel explained that he Jordan had always wanted to be ing a kippah and tzitzis. born Jewish is like being born with a
“wanted [my] talmidim to understand Jewish. When he was seven years old he “I spent seven years of my life wearing platinum credit card that you can’t read
that individuality and ‘out of the box’ cre- saw a commercial on television wishing a yarmulke and tzitzis, pressed up against the expiration date on, you’ve got two
ative expression can flourish within the viewers a happy Passover. He says that at the glass, wanting to be Jewish for seven choices, you can either lie to yourself
boundaries of halacha.” that moment he wanted to be Jewish. years, and it took that long before I and tell yourself that the card already
The rabbi said that the students were He explained that, at first, there was no would go up to New York to find a beis expired, or you can max it out and that’s

24 October 30, 2009 5 TOWNS JEWISH TIMES

what people need to do.”
“Judaism is the hottest thing ever.
Torah’s the hottest thing ever,” he
Asked if he views his music as a tool
for kiruv, Jordan responded that “Every
Jewish performer, somewhere inside
their heart of hearts, wants to write the
song that’s going to achieve one hundred
percent affiliation in the Jewish world.
Everybody wants to do that. Kiruv’s
nowhere near the central purpose of my
music, but everybody wants that. Every
frum performer wants to write that track
that makes the world frum.

“Judaism is the
hottest thing
ever. Torah’s
the hottest
thing ever,” he

“But for me, my underlying message

of everything is that all prejudice is
destructive. Unity has got to be the way
that humanity’s going to be working
towards if it’s going to survive, not just
Y-Love’s sound is not only appreciated
by young Jews. He has a sizable following
in the gentile world.
“This one non-Jewish guy from
Louisiana fell in love with my song
‘Mehadrin rhymin’, which is like two
thirds in Aramaic. To watch this guy from
Louisiana try to sing in Aramaic, I tried
not to laugh…”
While Jordan expressed his admiration
for such traditional Jewish performers as
Lipa, he also expressed hope that Jewish
music would evolve from “just
consist[ing] of trumpets and little boys.”
Y-Love is one of several acts signed to
the frum Shemspeed record label. He col-
laborates with such other Jewish hip-hop
artists as Diwon and DeScribe, a Chabad
chassid. He has also produced remixes
with Israelis such as the ethnic/world
performer Idan Rachel.
Full of positive vibes and singing a
message of hope, Jordan did express one
pet peeve during his concert. When asked
about how he writes his music, he replied
that he is ”up at two in the morning when
it comes to write lyrics and I got Gemaras
out, I’m looking online, I got Wikipedia
open, I got…all these
Hebrew websites… Soulja Boy comes up
with ‘woo” and goes platinum. I can’t be
as stupid as you gotta be to sell.”
The bochurim responded with raucous
Y-Love’s message of unity is not just
something theoretical. He experienced
intense racism during his conversion
process. He hopes that by breaking down
barriers between Jews, he can make the
world a better place. ❖
5 TOWNS JEWISH TIMES October 30, 2009 25