"I'm just a Hebrew homie," raps Jewish hip-hop artist 50 Shekel, "who likes them Hebrew hotties."
Listen up, Yiddas (loose translation: "Jewish homies"), 50 Shekel is on the lookout for a Hebrew hottie to share the mike with. Last month, the 28-year-old, Tel Aviv-born, Brooklyn-raised rapper began advertising for a sidekick, whom he plans to call Lil' Spenda - a nod to superstar rapper Lil' Kim. 50 Shekel's own nom de plume is a takeoff on gangsta rapper 50 Cent, whose 2003 song "In da Club" inspired 50 Shekel's emergence and his first song, "In da Shul."
Since he first wrote "In da Shul" and put it up on his Web site, 50 Shekel has gained a steady following among Jewish teens. He proudly says that his site has received more than 80,000 hits from dozens of countries, and he himself has been mentioned in New York magazine and The Wall Street Journal.
And although he has the look of a rapper - his standard outfit consists of a black jersey with the number "50" emblazoned on the center in white, a black-and-white "Jewcy" hat and a bulky metal chain supporting a massive, silver Star of David - 50 Shekel is not as interested in hip-hop as one might expect. 50 Shekel says that it is Allan Sherman - of "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadda" fame - that really gets his juice flowing, not 50 Cent or Lil' Kim.
50 Shekel was working in Los Angeles as a production assistant when he first heard "In da Club." "They played it, like, 40 times. So I asked myself, who is this 50 Cent?" Slowly the idea began percolating in his mind: A Jewish boy like him would not be spending his time in da club, he would be in da shul. So 50 Shekel did his own variation. Where 50 Cent raps: "Go shorty! It's your birthday!" 50 Shekel raps: "Go boychik! It's your birthday!"
So far, Shek - as he is called by his friends - has received dozens of e-mails inquiring about Lil' Spenda auditions. He has high hopes for his sidekick-girlchik. He wants them to fit together musically "a little bit like a Sonny and Cher," he said.
"She should have some experience in singing, rapping, dancing, acting and performing live," 50 Shekel wrote in an advertisement posted on the Web site Craigslist. "We are looking for someone with long and straight dark hair, tan, Britney Spears body type, great complexion, 5'6" and under. She should know some Hebrew. For sure, she should know her Gucci from her gefilte fish."
But finding such a woman has proven to be a more formidable challenge than expected. 50 Shekel had hoped to have Lil' Spenda on his first album, "Enter the Spiel," but he has already started cutting the album, and there is no clear sidekick candidate. "At this point she might not even make it on the album," 50 Shekel said over dinner at a Greenwich Village steakhouse.
There is no shortage of beautiful women who have answered his ad. Some have sent e-mails describing themselves with photos; about a half-dozen have sent videos.
Of a provocative Semitic diva with long brown hair who sent 50 Shekel some photos of herself via e-mail from California, he said, "Lives way too far away." And she is still in college: "This might interfere with her midterm examinations."
A gorgeous black woman with a Britney Spears-like flat tummy is rejected. "We are looking for Lil' Spenda," 50 Shekel wrote, "not Lil' Shiksa."
A raven-haired woman with green eyes and an enchanting smile is also rejected. "She might be sweet, but not spunky enough for this Lil' Spenda," 50 Shekel said. "And she looks like everyone's cousin Debbie or whatever. I don't think that she will get screaming boy fans, but definitely a screaming mother who is asking her to come back into the kitchen to check on the kugel - if Jew know what I mean."
In addition to having supermodel looks and a Hebraic heart, Lil' Spenda should also adhere to a certain standard of modesty. "I don't want anybody who's going to do something raunchy or nasty," 50 Shekel said. She also won't be singing explicit lyrics about sexual adventures, he said, naming one act in particular. "Not on my label," he said.
50 Shekel is also a sincere person. After meeting with a reporter for dinner, he hugged the writer before they departed.
One should not think that he is merely a satirist. A few days later he invited the reporter to sit in on a recording session of his original tune "Bar Mitzvah Boy."
And from "Bar Mitzvah Boy" 50 Shekel went into Jewish hyper drive, performing songs such as "B.Y.O.C. Party" - that's short for "bring your own `chewitz," as in Manischewitz - and "J.A.P. Nation."
But some of the best vocals and exchanges 50 Shekel has written are for Lil' Spenda. In the prelude to "J.A.P. Nation," 50 Shekel has scripted some provocative banter for himself and Lil' Spenda. At the tail end of a long flirtation Lil' Spenda implores 50 Shekel: "Whip it out."
50 Shekel: "Yidda what?"
Lil' Spenda: "Do you have, like, an Amex or a Visa? `Cause this dress is gonna cost like $2,500."
With his upcoming album, 50 Shekel is adding his explicitly Jewish gangsta-jokester persona to a list that's been steadily growing: MC Paul Barman, 2 Live Jews and DJ Sneakas, among others. "I'm Jewin' out like crazy. This is who I am. And I will tell those who don't like it, `They can kiss my kosher ... `" he said, referring to a body part known in Jewish circles as a tukhes.
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