Rapped in Jewish Hotline Bling

  • SacksteinRapper
When Michael Jackson’s oldest son, Prince Jackson, announced the Billboard Music Awards’ top artist, he called on the same artiste who had come up on stage 12 times previously that night, to accept awards. A huge entourage followed him onto the stage including his own father, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj.
by HOWARD SACKSTEIN | Jun 08, 2017

Never before had one musician accomplished such a convincing sweep of the Billboard Music Awards.

When the royalty of music gathered on the Las Vegas strip for the annual Billboard glamourfest, there was little doubt that Adele, the reigning queen of popular music, would scoop most of the coveted awards.

In a lyrical palace coup, a dethroned Adele gave way to Drake, the black Jewish Canadian rapper who was anointed the new king of music. In true poetic irony, it was the son of the late King of Pop who crowned the new heir.

Drake who bridges the musical divide between hip-hop and rap, has become one of the most successful artists of his generation. His song, Hotline Bling, and his collaboration with Rihanna on Work, has skyrocketed Drake to international fame and made him a household name.

Smashing Adele’s previous record, Drake took home 13 Billboard Music Awards, the most ever won at one ceremony.

During the course of the evening, Drake won top artist, top male artist and top Billboard 200 artist for his smash hit “View”, top hot 100 artist, top rap artist, top streaming songs artist and many more.

In the competition for top artiste, Drake trounced musicians such as Beyoncé, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, Twenty One Pilots, Shawn Mendes and the Chainsmokers.

Drake’s father attended the ceremony wearing a purple suit, leading the musician to comment: “I want to say my dad got on a purple suit with purple shoes. Boy, if you don't stop!” But the real influence in Drake’s life is his Jewish mother.

Drake, often described as the most famous Black Jewish musician since Sammy Davis Jr, was born Aubrey Drake Graham. His parents divorced when Drake was just five and he was brought up by his mother Sandi Graham (née Sher), a teacher. Drake attended a Jewish day school in Toronto, and had a barmitzvah.

"I went to a Jewish school, where nobody understood what it was like to be black and Jewish," he says. "When kids are young it's hard for them to understand the make-up of religion and race."

He tells the story that he was regularly called a “schvartze”, at school. "But the same kids that made fun of me are super proud [of me] now. And they act as if nothing happened."

Drake told Vibe magazine in 2014: “It was just stupid, annoying rich kids that were closed-minded and mean, so I dealt with that more than anything.” Drake later told late night TV talk show host Jimmy Fallon how the day he had an audition for the TV show Degrassi: The Next Generation, “it was also the day I finally got accepted by these really cool Jewish kids at my school”.

In his hit music video, HYFR, Drake reimagines his barmitzvah. Drake, draped in a tallit and wearing a kippah, layns from the Torah, before doing hagbah (lifting the Torah), smashing a Torah cake and hotboxing the shul smoking weed.

Drake spends most of the Jewish holidays with his mother. "My mom has always made Chanukah fun," recalls Drake. "When I was younger, she gave cool gifts and she'd make latkes."

He remains close to his mother and often raps about her in his songs. In his song, You & the Six, he sings “retired teacher/but your words still got me evolving”.

Drake explains: “One thing I make sure I do is I always talk to the Big Guy upstairs. I always let him know what my purpose is on that stage. It’s not to further my reputation… I want to make these people happy.”

Drake, who recently filmed a music video in Hillbrow, wears a diamond-studded Chai and explains: "At the end of the day, I consider myself a black man because I'm more immersed in black culture than any other. Being Jewish is kind of a cool twist. It makes me unique."


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