Rap’s bizarre obssession with the Israeli national anthem

Israel’s Hatikvah is one of the world’s most beautiful national anthems, one of the few in a minor key – a song that yearns for the creation of a “land of zion”.

Which suggests it isn’t the most sensible sample for a rap record, but why should that stop a producer, eh?

2Pac, Troublesome ’96

Hatikvah was written by Naphtali Imber, a Ukrainian poet living in one of the first Jewish settlements in Palestine. What’s lesser known is he was actually a gangsta who wanted to rap “these scams are plotted over grams and rocks, outlaw motherfuckers die by random shots” over the same tune. Thank the Lord, then, that 2Pac came along 100-odd years later and did just that.

Anderson .Paak, Come Down

If you don’t know who Anderson .Paak is, he’s a rapper/singer with an incredibly poor knowledge of how full stops work. He was also all over Dr Dre’s Compton last year.

Come Down starts with a sample of Hatikvah that’s oddly not in Hebrew. I once tried to ask Mr .Paak why he did that but he didn’t fancy a chat – something that tells you EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT HIM, doesn’t it conspiracy theorists?

[“Er, no” – conspiracy theorists everywhere]

Remedy, Never Again

Who knew the Wu-Tang Clan had a line in anti-holocaust songs? Who knew the Wu-Tang Clan had a white, Jewish, associate member? Probably not even Remedy himself. But here’s something that proves all exist. It’s quite serious. I probably shouldn’t be flippant about it. Hatikvah comes in during the chorus. Enjoy!

Update: I forgot Louchie Lou and Michie One’s Rich Girl! How could I? HOW. COULD. I? I’m off to give myself a thorough telling off.

If that makes you want to head off to listen to the Gwen Stefani version. Don’t. Go and listen to Hollaback Girl instead. That shit’s bananas. B. A. N. A. N. A. S.

Update 2 (March 2017): If you run a Jewish book festival and fancy a talk on Hatikvah – its history and what it says about Israel’s past and future, get in touch. I did one this month for Milim, Leeds’ Jewish Book Festival, and it went really well, so I’d happily do it again.

4 thoughts on “Rap’s bizarre obssession with the Israeli national anthem

  1. Bizarre???…….not really……Any Hip Hop historian will tell you that Hip Hop has traditionally been a Holy Grail search/competition for the perfect “original and unexpected” Sample – from samples of the Incredible Bongo Band, Germany’s Kraftwerk, Billy Squire, Led Zeppelin, Bill Withers, various obscure and well-known Jazz artists,…etc. etc……
    When you have a moment, just check out the bottom part of the Wikipedia page for the Album “Fear of a Black Planet” by Public Enemy – there’s a chart listing ALL the Samples on just this one Album!…..so trust me it’s not Bizarre my friend…..it’s just Tradition.
    (wait….and now we’ve come full circle as the song “Tradition!!!….Tradition!!!” from Fiddler on the Roof plays in the background in my head)…….so if anything, I guess it’s apropos they sampled the Israeli National Anthem.

    • Hi JinnyMac – thanks for reading. I’m well aware of sampling history. But there’s a huge difference between crate digging to pick out some African beat and pulling out Israel’s national anthem, for reasons of its political significance alone. Pulling out a Kraftwerk record simply says you know music history. Pulling out an anthem suggests an awful lot else. I’ll defend that word bizarre to the hilt. Plus, it’s simply a way of getting more reads! Welcome to journalism! Alex

  2. Pingback: Live in Leeds? Come hear me talk! | Republic or Death

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