Jewish Journal

Masi’s Grays

by Michael Aushenker

Posted on Sep. 21, 2000 at 8:00 pm

The Borscht Belt has gone way downtown as a crop of young hip-hoppers redefines the shape of Jewish comedy.

Welcome to the next generation of Jewish humor, where beats become borscht in the hip-hop Cuisinart.Young Jews have found rap's limitless vocabulary ideal for taking a fresh look at old stereotypes.The patriarchs of Jewish hip hop, of course, are the Beastie Boys, three guys from New York City who retooled their band from punk to hip hop and became one of the most popular rap groups ever. Their 1986 album "Licensed to Ill" set a standard of hip-hop as comedy.

Since then, other Jewish rappers such as Staten Island songwriter Remedy (Ross Filler), the groups Blood of Abraham and NonFiction and performance artist Danny Hoch became more sensitive to the hip-hop hardcore, where "Blackness" lies at the center of the aesthetic. They got more Jewish - Remedy eulogized victims of the Holocaust on "Never Again" and Blood of Abraham tackled race relations on "Niggaz & Jewz" - but they also got more serious, for instance:

MC Paul Barman, the Woody Allen of the hip-hop nation. "My sex life is pathetic. That's why I fantasize on four out of my five songs," Barman intones in the introduction of his debut EP "It's Very Stimulating" (Wordsound). Like Allen at his best, Barman, 25, offsets his tales of intricately rhymed sexual misadventure with his intellectual prowess.

Concetta Kirschner, aka Princess Superstar, a downtown diva for the trendy and ambitious, is celebrating the release of her third CD, "Last of the Great 20th Century Composers," and the first on her self-owned independent label Corrupt Conglomerate. The new meticulously produced disc is spare with beats but overripe with libido.

L.A.-based duo MOT (Members of the Tribe) expertly ape hip-hop tropes.Proudly derivative, MOT views rap music and culture through a Borscht Belt lens. On tunes such as "Havana Nagilla" and "Kosher Nostra," MOT achieves a hilarious, almost perfect synthesis of Jewish and gangsta stereotypes.

"The Bomb-itty of Errors," a hit Off-Broadway musical, drew rave reviews and rabid audiences. The five talented actors, Jordan Allen-Dutton, Jason Catalano, Gregory Qaiyum, Erik Weiner and DJ Jeffrey Qaiyum, fresh out of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, created an exceedingly clever 90-minute romp through Shake-spearean ribaldry and hip-hop history. Only in New York would a modernized version of "A Comedy of Errors" rhyme "crowbar" with "shofar."

This article appears courtesy of The Jewish Week. A longer version is available at thejewishweek.com

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