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Happy Hanukkah! The Jewish "Festival of Lights" comes early this year. (Blame the ancient Hebrew calendar for the annual confusion—it doesn't line up with our modern one.) Hanukkah is the time when Jews worldwide celebrate a miracle that supposedly happened at a temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century B.C. Back then, a group of Jewish rebels called the Maccabees defeated the Greeks who had taken over the city. When they cleaned up the temple and rededicated the place to Judaism, they needed oil to burn in the lamps overnight. (For religious reasons, you were supposed to keep a lamp lit in a temple overnight.) They only had enough oil to burn for one night, but (here's the miracle) that little bit of oil burned for eight nights—long enough for them to get more oil, and keep things going. So that's why the holiday lasts for eight days. (Well, eight nights, technically, and seven days.) And why we light an eight-pronged candelabra called "the menorah," adding a new candle each night. And that's why, also, it seems like a good time to give thanks to some of the most notable Jews in hip-hop history. So sit back and light one (a candle) as we spin some records and the dreidel and celebrate the 8 Jews of Rap.
Written by Jeff Rosenthal & Eric Rosenthal (@ItsTheReal)
There’s an interview a still-very-young Mac Miller did a few years ago, where the interviewer (from the website ShalomLife) asks him to respond to Drake calling himself “the best Jew in the rap game.” At that point, Mac hadn't even put out his first proper album. He smiled and stuttered, his eyes searching the room for help, finally saying, “I mean, I don’t take offense to it. I’m the coolest Jewish rapper. Not he! I am!”
So…it turns out neither of them is the coolest Jewish rapper. But what’s cooler than a Social Network reference? Five million dollars, which is what Forbes says Mac Miller earned last year, on top of a cool $6.5 million the year before that. 2011’s Blue Slide Park was the first independently-distributed debut album to hit number-one on the Billboard 200 since 1995, the second ever in history.
His follow-up, the decidedly un-pop Watching Movies with the Sound Off, came out this year. It sold over 100,000 copies its first week, landing just behind Kanye and J. Cole on the chart. Critics went from rejecting to accepting him. (Pitchfork, which slammed Blue Slide Park with a 1.0 rating, gave Watching Movies a glowing 7.0.) With no one to answer to, Mac's only getting bigger, weirder and better. In a whirlwind of responsibilities, there was the tour with Chance the Rapper, the ads with Lil Wayne and Mountain Dew, and the casual two-step he did with Ariana Grande on Ellen’s show.
He’s moved out from behind Wiz Khalifa’s shadow and into his own cloud of smoke. Not too bad for a Big L fan from Pittsburgh. And sure, he has no major label to share his money with. But he’s got friends: the hilarious Most Dope Family, as seen on MTV2 and in the hills of Hollywood. (Other friends? The OFWGKTA biker gang and Miley Cyrus.) He’s a 21-year-old with the world at his back and tattoos on his chest, fingers, neck, legs—and now his stomach. He’s living! That’s great, since he won’t be able to be buried in a Jewish cemetery.
Check back tomorrow for our next great Jew of rap.