Jews and rapping aren’t necessarily the first pairing that comes to mind. But Drake’s new music video “HYFR,” featuring Lil’ Wayne, is proof positive that the two go together like matzoh balls and soup or wine and Passover.
Let’s start with how happy Drake looks. Mazel tov, friend! He’s so glad to be hoisted on a chair during Hava Nagila and have his best friend in attendance wearing a panda mask. As Rembert Browne at Grantland points out, Drake has never seemed as relaxed as he does in this video, which honors his multicultural heritage and both Jewish and hip-hop cultures. He seems truly comfortable with himself, and I think that has to do not just with celebrating his background but also with coming out as an honest-to-goodness loveable dork of a rapper.
Hip-hop’s masculinity imperative is a straightjacket for artists who have range beyond guns-drugs-and-girls. It’s never been a great fit for Drake, even with his lady’s man soft sell on toughness: his voice is a bit nasal, his expressions tend toward puppyish even when he’s trying to look badass, and of course he’s also Jimmy from Degrassi, which makes him fun but not very imposing. This video is all about Drake embracing his own dorkiness, from the goofy premise to that shot of him happily chatting a pal’s ear off to his owl sweater to that amazing picture-cake to his open-mouthed beaming as he jumps around with his arm slung around various buddies.
I’m actually getting kind of emotional writing about this, because the video is hilarious but it’s also kind of a big deal, what Drake’s doing. He’s confident enough about himself and his acceptance in the hip-hop community that he doesn’t need to front; he can own this bar mitzvah. And it’s also important that his hip-hop friends—Lil’ Wayne, DJ Khaled, Trey Songz–are in attendance, supporting him and celebrating his Jewish heritage. Historically there’s been an undercurrent of anti-Semitism in a lot of celebrated hip-hop—even my beloved Jay-Z has tossed off some problematic lines about Jewish folk. So it means a lot that Drake made this video, and that the hip-hop community turned out for it.
Also, little Drake at his first bar mitzvah is ridiculously adorable.
What are your thoughts on Drizzy’s time-honored celebration of his transition from Boy to Man? Let us know in the comments.
This post is part of a new weekly column, “Replay,” where we respond to music videos. Sometimes they’ll be new, sometimes they’ll be old, and sometimes they will just be ones we love. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a music video you think we should feature here.
Previously: Azealia Banks’ awesome first video “L8R.”