Bonded by our survival of near extinctions, Jews and Blacks always leveled with agendas for ending racism. For decades this linkage of two Diasporas endured the normal strains of any relationship; specifically, numerous occasions influenced separation of the two groups with an unbreakable extension of the nasty racial myths behind both groups. However, during times when Hip Hop—a creation of Black culture—offers its home to the international community, the historical Black-Jewish relationship becomes more prevalent. Images of Abraham Joshua Heschel and Martin Luther King Jr. marching together reincarnate in the center of Hip Hop life, the cipher circle. Cipher circles from Israel/Palestine to South Africa to the States are all about intimacy, but closeness is always a neighbor to vulnerability. The same symbol of acceptance and alliance, at the same time reminds the community of the hatred Blacks and Jews once had for each other.
Unfortunate remnants of the oppressed playing the oppressor by coughing slurs arise in the Hip Hop community when Blacks and Jews participate in rap battles. If we follow an average battle round for Soul Khan, a Jewish emcee with the alias “Jewish devil,” the crux of the problem becomes clear. In order to maintain his almost undefeated title, Soul Khan competes in a disproportionate circuit—one that permits anti-Semitism but silently makes anti-Black racism punishable by death. In effect the language used by Blacks decades ago in Crown Heights, New York City resurface.
I use silent here because Blacks populate the majority Grind Time’s (an organization that coordinates internationally broadcasted rap face-offs) battle audiences, so the openness of admission to the battle alone deters any racial word play that’s offensive to Blacks. Punch lines seem to come easy for Soul Khan’s opponents as they have access to a terrain that only reflects the double standard of Grind Time’s atmosphere. Slanderous verses confront Khan all the time such as QP’s:
“It feels like summer time when you wanna try/ to slip the truth by/Cuz you say it and turn red, Cuz it gets hot whenever this Jew lie/” (05:20).
Nevertheless, Khan never devalues this community that quickly forgets how closely related the anti-Semitic racist the anti-Black racist are. As he continues with victories that cleverly escape offensives for Blacks the profane style loses strength.
The weakening of anti-Semitic strategies though seems to lead Soul Khan’s opponents into scholarly positions on Jewish history. There’s something striking about QP’s rhythmic attacks that make him Khan’s strongest adversary for me. QP has tremendous awareness of the tropes of anti-Semitism instated even before Nazi propaganda. In the line above, he artistically drew up the devilish image that circulated in the theological anti-Judaism of the crusades. He even establishes a motif that portrays the pre-modern concept Jew witchery and “Blood Libel” (since Blacks a predominantly Christian):
“The wizard asked you for some brain, he means your medulla. Oblongata/So he can whip up a potion with hand lotion using the sorcerer’s stone/” (04:53).
Although I disagree with QP’s ability to call Khan a “kike” and to reinforce awful stereotypes about Jews, I recognize the soul altering content of battling with racial difference, yet historical relatives. Doing the homework-that is researching the colonial contexts of other cultures to humiliate your opponent-guides the Black emcee/student toward remembering the alliance Blacks and Jews once held so strongly. When QP says “So for barking up this nigger tree/Ima hit you with a German Knee/For Russian up, this Jew-is history,” the community should see the unity behind two peoples that have been displaced.
The line only works and the crowd only lets out a “whoo!” only in understanding that the Russian Zionist fled to Israel to escape persecution. Thus, underneath the immaculate wordplay, I hope the QP and the rest of the community remembers the murders of 3 civil rights workers: one Black, two Jews. We should see that if we are going to die in a world that sees k#k&s and n#gg&rs, it should be death by a combined matrydom for ending the hatred that has dispersed us.