From the people who brought you Y-Love, Eprhyme is Shemspeed Records’ newest catch — and, if JDub is the Haskalah movement of new Jewish music, then Shemspeed is its equivalent of the Hasidus, taking the structure of halakhah and Orthodox life and, well, putting it to a killer beat.
Eprhyme is probably their best example. His just-released album, Waywordwonderwill, is a fascinating and ultra-listenable collage of hip-hop, dreamy pop (think a more experimental version of the Jay-Z/Radiohead collage, or Miri Ben-Ari’s mash-ups of hip-hop and Jewish classical stylings) and his own proclivities toward soul and niggunim. The title of the lead track, “Tikkun Adam,” alludes to the Hasidic idea that humanity’s purpose in the world is to establish ourselves in the world, rather than getting ready for whatever happens when we die. Against a jungle beat, though, Ep’s lyrics are gentle and ebbing, more a questioning of his own purpose — “I heard the call, and the sound of laughter/I looked around, I was alone” — than the solid mission statements that usually introduce hip-hop albums.
From there, though, it’s pretty much straight on to the rhyming. “Beggin’ for Change” has big-band horns that reference Kanye West, and “Where the Heart Is” lifts its sung chorus from Fiddler on the Roof. The highlight, though, is almost always Eprhyme’s delivery: a swift, iambic rhyme flow that’s as much boho intellectual as it is Hasidic philosopher. It’s not fist-pumping anthems like label-mate Y-Love or battle-rapping philosophy like The Roots, but rather a series of consciousness-raising rhymes and clever slights of wordplay.
Here’s the world-premiere video Punklezmerap, Eprhyme’s first single. Count up how many Jewlebrities you can spot, how many wacky spins on traditional Jewish culture (here’s a hint: is this a wedding party?), and straight-up crazy moments you can find. Then we’ll be back on Monday to tell you what we found, along with some of the stars of the video itself.