The New (Jewish) Face of Rap

Thank Him Later: Drake, a half-black, half-Jewish rapper who garnered fame and some unlikely friends in the hip-hop community, is making waves with his debut album, ‘Thank Me Later.’
Getty Images
Thank Him Later: Drake, a half-black, half-Jewish rapper who garnered fame and some unlikely friends in the hip-hop community, is making waves with his debut album, ‘Thank Me Later.’

By Devra Ferst

Published June 16, 2010, issue of June 25, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Music writer Jon Caramanica said it right in the New York Times on June 8: “Biracial Jewish-Canadian former child actors don’t have a track record of success in the American rap industry.”

But Drake (born Aubrey Drake Graham), a 23-year-old half-black, half-Jewish gifted rapper from suburban Toronto, is proving Caramanica and us wrong. The rap star, whose debut album, “Thank Me Later,” debuted June 15, has already made big waves in the hip-hop community and has built a strong fan base. In fact, a free show scheduled for the same day in Manhattan was canceled after thousands of fans showed up and a melee erupted.

Drake, who was raised by his Jewish mother in Toronto, attended a Jewish day school and celebrated his bar mitzvah. “I went to a Jewish school, where nobody understood what it was like to be black and Jewish,” he said in a June interview in Heeb magazine.

But Drake left the Jewish suburb of Forest Hills and his Jewish school after getting his start at 14 on the Canadian Television Network teen drama “Degrassi: The Next Generation” as Jimmy Brooks, a wheelchair-bound basketball player. While filming the show, he recorded two amateur mixtapes on the side and, in 2008, hip-hop star Lil Wayne invited him to join his tour. The two collaborated while traveling, which led to Drake’s third mixtape, “So Far Gone.”

The title song, with the promotional help of Lil Wayne, reached the No. 2 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and garnered Drake two Grammy nominations in 2010, making him the first rapper to be nominated without producting an album.

Drake’s music has been singled out for his thoughtful, personal lyrics and his undeniable vocal talent, and it has given him the opportunity to collaborate with rappers like Eminem and Jay Z, and even with indie rock artists like Peter Bjorn and John.

And despite his stardom in a music genre that is rarely linked to Jews, Drake has continued to self-identify as Jewish. A December 2009 Vibe magazine cover showed him wearing a diamond studded chai necklace.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.