Monday, November 09, 2009

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Music Review: Until When by Prodezra

by Reb Akiva at Mystical Paths

Jewish hip-hop, chassidic rap. Powerful fusion or desecration of holy tunes?

Until When by chassidic musician Prodezra is a fusion of chassidic tunes with modern hip-hop music. Note I said music, not hip-hop lyrics, bling or any other cultural baggage - just the music.

Prodezra specializes in "beats", the musical non-vocal layer of the hip-hop song. Those in the chassidic world would recognize the same non-vocal songs sung as niggunim, songs of the soul. And this is exactly what the artist tries to fuse.

He creates modern hip-hop style beats which are based on chassidic niggunim. The tracks are powerful, bouncing with energy. To varying degrees, they're also hip-hoppy drummy with loops, which in some cases makes for a great energetic treat - in other cases a sound that's just too different for my tastes. Most tracks are vocal / lyrics free. A few create a full chassidic rap Jewish hip hop experience.

Here's my thoughts and/or feelings as I listened to the album...

Track 1 - Excuse Me. A brief rap intro. Here and gone.
Track 2 - Koach. Powerful but very modern. My teenagers like it.
Track 3 - Until When. Great opening, nice depth. Wakes you up.
Track 4 - Change (w/Describe & Y-Love). Modern chassidic Jewish hip-hop song. Cool.
Track 5 - Tribute. Guitar classic rap tribute to righteous women. Eh.
Track 6 - Sound the Alarm. Loud! Brash! Noise! Not my thing.
Track 7 - Ein Ode Milvado. Electronic, piano, meditative. Calming & intriguing.
Track 8 - The Lamplighter. Rappy, shouty, piano, the far edge. Not for me.
Track 9 - One with Him. A rap to Hashem. Why not?
Track 10 - The South Niggun. A niggun fully rap'd out. Almost works, or not.
Track 11 - From Strength to Strength. Chassidic niggun, beat style. Nice!
Track 12 - Stood at Sinai. Chassidic niggun rap. It works.
Track 13 - Masa L'Geulah. Tinkle, melancholy, tears, draws out the soul. Love it.
Track 14 - Change Instrumental. Track 4's background by itself. Cool & strong.

So the verdict, powerful fusion or desecration of holy tunes? Judaism is alive, it grows and moves throughout the cultures of the ages - keeping it's core, it's heart and soul, Torah and commitment to Hashem. But it has also lifted the holy sparks of the societies it has passed through, elevating the best to Hashem.

Are there holy sparks in hip-hop? Does the US inner city culture, with it's extreme excesses of various types also offer a tidbit to be extracted and elevated?

Maybe, just maybe, the answer is yes.

Until When by Prodezra is available here for disc, here for MP3.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

i think this 'music' is dark. it doesn't feel uplifting at all. i read an interview with the producer. he seems to be a sincere person.
but the sounds don't seem to really serve the klal. however,maybe they are intended to reach certain areas and people who wouldn't otherwise be reached. this is a valid debate in the community. to what extent do we give sanction to this type of thing?

ReuvenEzraF said...

Hey Anonymous, I'm Prodezra the producer of this album. First I want to thank you for at least considering that this music has a place in the Jewish world. It shows you are willing to investigate & learn about a matter before you rule it out, as many do not. You can imagine that I have had debates about this on a number of occasions, as have my fellow Jewish hiphop artists such as Y-Love, Describe, Nosson Zand, etc. Instead of spending a lengthy amount of time describing my position, I refer you to this link (comments section) on this very blog in which I had a long discussion with a few people about this. Even if you don't agree, at least you will have a better understanding of where I'm coming from, and even the unexpected origins of some Jewish music & niggunim that are more "accepted" to date.

http://mysticalpaths.blogspot.com/2009/03/holy-music.html

I can tell you from ongoing feedback & messages that I receive that there are numerous individuals from a broad span of age groups, from frum to currently non-observant, who view this music (not in quotes as you've suggested it should be above) as light, not dark. I've heard reactions varying from people realizing the importance of a loved one, to being inspired to stay afloat as a baal teshuva, or just saying that the music keeps their spirit positive during a tough day. I don't know your background, but many times a negative outlook on this music comes from a lack of interest in the hip-hop style as a whole, generation gap, or just an inability to feel the way another person may feel when they hear the music because people are different and feel different things. But i'm sure you're intellectually honest enough to accept that while Avraham Fried may inspire the neshama of one person, another positively driven kind of music may do the same thing for another. And one is not necessarily less holy than another, especially when we see similar results from both kinds. New sounds & instruments to Jewish music as opposed to keeping everything the same as always can be a good thing. You hit the nail on the head when you said that perhaps this reaches places that other methods cannot. But even more than that (for this is not a "necessary evil" just to reach one group), I can promise you that it holds its place among listeners from all levels of observance. I challenge you to buy the album from Akiva's store & sit down with an open mind and listen as he did. For the songs with lyrics, listen to the content. If you do this honestly, I'm willing to bet you'll have at least a slightly different perspective. And please read the debate at the link I put above for more info. Blessings to you.

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