Hip-Hop in the Jewish Diaspora

Shi 360, an Israeli raised in Canada by Maghrebi Jewish parents, releases his latest album, ‘Shalom Haters’.

Hip-hop has always been Diaspora music, or at least since the Jamaican-born Kool Herc started looping James Brown records in the early 1970s. Later on, people like the late Japanese producer Nujabes made the culture truly global. Shi 360, an Israeli raised in Canada by Maghrebi Jewish parents, who plays Afro-American music with roots in West Africa, is true to the culture in that sense. His new album, “Shalom Haters,” from Shemspeed Records, is explicitly concerned with issues of Diaspora, Sephardic, Israeli and Jewish identity.

Diaspora politics are a big part of the track “United,” which samples Helen Thomas’s infamous “Go back to Poland and Germany” screed. The bouncy drums and poppy vocals in the beat fit his flow well, and his Zionist verses (“I know my people can be divided at times…you can hate us, it only makes us stronger and more united”) are unusually sincere. The identity politics here aren’t for everyone, but they’re heartfelt.

Jewish hip hop
Courtesy of the Forward

On “Every Generation,” Shi shows his linguistic prowess, kicking a verse in Arabic, French and English, ending each iteration with “Am Yisrael Chai.” The identity politics are fascinating and pithy, especially in one-liners like “we’ve been chosen but it’s us you choose to oppress,” and the minor keys with hard drums compliment his flow.

Read more at the Forward.