Rick Ross, ‘The Black Bar Mitzvah,’ and Hip-Hop’s Obsession with Judaism
Late last night, Rick Ross dropped his latest project with far less promotion than we’re used to from the larger-than-life Maybach Music Group leader. The only “singles” from the mixtape arrived several hours before it dropped and much of the hype yesterday was built upon the fact that he and Drake would be rapping over Chicago rapper Lil Reese’s “Us” banger.
So why didn’t this tape receive the usual over-the-top promo that every other MMG project receives? Because it got all the hype it needed based on its name: The Black Bar Mitzvah. When the hip-hop world heard that Rozay had indeed chosen that title, you couldn’t go five minutes without seeing a joke or comment about it on Twitter. As such, the grunt-loving rapper had created a buzz based off a title alone, sort of like Lil B did last year with I’m Gay (I’m Happy), though in a completely different sense.
What Ross did with The Black Bar Mitzvah is stir up emotions and thoughts associated with hip-hop’s obsession with Judaism. It also made people reassess his “authenticity,” and the fact he’s re-appropriated a number of cultural properties throughout his career. Here’s a big, gruff dude who used to be a corrections officer and now raps about how he’s basically a don, selling dope straight off his iPhone, and the like. And now he’s throwing his own coming of age party per the Jewish tradition?
Of course, this connection between hip-hop and Judaism isn’t solely in Rozay’s hands. As someone who said he was “far from Jewish,” Jay-Z has probably spit the most bars associated with the religion—from his “L’chaim!” exclamation in “Roc Boys” to ”Black bar mitzvahs, mazel tov, mogul talk” on Watch The Throne‘s “New Day”, among others. Drake, of course, is half-Jewish and most notably celebrated his own bar mitzvah in the pretty damn great “HYFR” music video.
But what does this all mean for hip-hop? It’s hard to say. Could Ross be starting a new trend of rappers pretending to be Jewish with their new singles, mixtapes, albums, etc…? And if so, how far does it go before people throw their hands up and question whether this is offensive or not? Or does Rozay get a pass because, let’s be real, he’s kind of become a parody of himself?
I’m not sure. I do think this is nothing if not interesting and worth noting, hence my writing about The Black Bar Mitzvah in the first place. At first, I just wanted to write about whether dude had it in him to do something better than God Forgives, I Don’t, which I thought was a sluggish disappointment. We’ll all find out by streaming the mixtape below, which I personally see as Ross’ way to maintain ultimate relevance amid the hype/noise surrounding G.O.O.D. Music’s Cruel Summer release.