What is Jewish music? Is it music that’s explicitly religious? Is it just music that happens to be composed by Jews? Or is it something in between?
These are the questions that the new age of Jewish music is currently wrestling with. And artists like BenYomen are at the forefront of answering them.
BenYomen, aka Ben Schwed, a good friend of mine, is one of the foremost and most skilled rappers in the Jewish music world. He was featured in the album Jenerouz Skillz, an album I called “the best Jewish rap album yet” and he recently released his own album, entitled “His Name is One”.
The album is a fresh, innovative collection that displays the potential that Jewish rap and music in general possesses in the golden age of baal teshuva art. Unlike a lot of the aspiring Jewish rappers on the scene, Ben saw success as a rapper before he became religious in the group Life for the Better, which has served him well as he’s adapted his style to fit a Jewish audience.
In my favorite song, Contrite Hearts, BenYomen manages to successfully combine a beautiful, meditative music track with a flowing rhyme that doesn’t sound stale or impersonal, like so many Jewish rap tracks.
However, BenYomen’s new album is also a testament to the difficulty of being able to stay Torah-true while also digging deep.
A listen to the album reveals a lot of religious concepts, ideas, and thoughts, which might be interesting and enlightening to some less religious folks, but at the same time, I personally couldn’t help but wish that it was a bit less “religious” and a bit more personal.
In that sense, Benyomen’s album is a perfect example of the challenges of creating frum art. When is religious “too religious”? When is personal “untznius”?
Jewish music and rap is still searching for the answer, and His Name is One marks a significant step in the direction of finding that answer.
Listen to Contrite Hearts below and click the link under it to buy the rest of His Name is One:[audio http://popchassid.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/04-Contrite-Hearts-feat.-Yosef-Daniel-Produced-by-Jayda.mp3]