“Shake your tuchas” : Jewish parody rappers and the performance of Jewish masculinity
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American Jewish rappers have become an increasingly prevalent topic in Jewish popular and scholarly media, where critics and scholars seek to understand how hip-hop performance and consumption serves as a platform for exploring and articulating Jewish identity. This thesis explores the work of what I term “Jewish parody rappers”—rappers who foreground Jewishness while destabilizing normative American Jewish identity using humor or parody—in order to demonstrate how nuanced gender and ethnoracial identity performances can be found in an often overlooked segment of Jewish rap. Using Jamie Moshin’s concept of “New Jewishness,” I argue that Jewish parody rappers recontextualize tropes of Jewish masculinity through black hip-hop codes, evoking a long history of Jewish engagement with African-American performance. Through an examination of Jewish parody rappers and their performances—including the Beastie Boys, 2 Live Jews, Chutzpah, and Athens Boys Choir—I demonstrate how these New Jews destabilize, or queer, Jewish identity through hip-hop performance. The Beastie Boys’ parodic performances highlight Jewishness as a liminal identity as they use the malleable and performative markers of Jewish masculinity to foreground their whiteness in the black-dominated arena of hip-hop. 2 Live Jews and Chutzpah recuperate tropes of effeminate and impotent Jewish masculinity through their extended parodies. Harvey Katz of Athens Boys Choir plays with tropes of Jewish masculinity not only to queer Jewishness, like other Jewish parody rappers, but also to articulate an explicitly queer Jewish identity. Each of these core samples illuminates various ways in which Jewish parody rappers perform New Jewish identity; however, these rappers do not evade the specter of problematic racial appropriation as they articulate Jewishness through and against tropes of black hip-hop hypermasculinity.