For a while, Etan G was known as “the Jewish rapper” — you know, as opposed to one of several Jewish rappers. Nobody’s sure who was around first, but Mr. G was unarguably a trailblazer in the realm of making hip-hop palatable for nice Jewish kids. At a time when most rap songs featured half-naked women sprawled across cars, G was taking the high road, making positive self-reinforcement songs along the lines of KRS-1 or Black Star. Then, at one point, the usually-timid Jewish band Shlock Rock — creator of such parodies as “Rock Me Achashverosh” and “Give Me That Old Time Torah Scroll” — signed on Etan G as a rapper and dancer.
In 2000, G released his first solo album, South Side of the Synagogue, which was an instant classic among a certain crowd — that is, Jewish day-school kids who were desperate for an alternative to cheesy “religious” music. Songs like “Yo Yo Yarmulke” and “Makin’ the Motzee” taught Jewish rituals in a way that was fun and catchy, but still educational — irreverent, but also reverent.
Etan G’s career followed in that way. Even when he fell into his “bad boy” role, like the time he got kicked off the Chabad telethon, he’s still always been a positive role model — half-inspirational, half-educational, and full of joy.
While continuing to tour both alone and with Shlock Rock — as well as doing dozens of school appearances each year — G has just released his new solo album, Foundation, on CD and iTunes. He dropped MJL a line to talk about his new CD, and to answer a few questions about his past and his future.
Matthue: Your sound this time around has evolved a lot since South Side of the Synagogue. The beats are heavier, there’s more guitar, and your hooks are more complex.
Etan G: It’s due to many factors including new producers, newer technology, different budget, different message I wanted to convey, less restrictions, different creative process, new life experiences, more confidence in the studio, more experience in the studio and much more experience with music in general — just to name a few. I also took some interesting risks and challenges in musical styles on this album, especially on songs like “Dogtag” and “This Is How We Live” — that seem to be well received.