Meredith Aska McBride

Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Fellow in the Humanities

20092010 Forum on Connections

Meredith Aska McBride


College '10


Sampling the Shtetl, Rapping the Torah: Reinventing American Jewish Identity through Hip Hop

In the past 25 years, Jewish hip hop artists making hip hop about the Jewish experience in the United States have become increasingly common within both the Jewish and mainstream musical communities. Several movements attempting to reclaim a distinctive Jewish identity have flourished within the Ashkenazi Jewish community over the past 40 years, and each has its characteristic style of Afrodiasporic-influenced music. In this project I will investigate why hip hop is the genre of choice for young Jews exploring their ethnoreligious identity and how notions of authenticity, cultural memory, imagination and nostalgia; anxieties about masculinity; and Jewish performances of nonwhite racial identity operate within this music. I examine two case studies, Matisyahu and MC SoCalled, within the context of a larger discussion about the implications of the visions of the contemporary Jewish-American experience put forth by these artists within their work.