Music

Could the next Kanye West be from Israel?

With an upcoming visit by hip-hop royalty, the country's music scene is getting a closer look.

Kanye West, seen here in Toronto this summer, will be performing in Tel Aviv this fall.Kanye West, seen here in Toronto this summer, will be performing in Tel Aviv this fall.Kanye West, seen here in Toronto this summer, will be performing in Tel Aviv this fall. (Photo: Ezra Shaw / Getty Images)

This October, grammy-winning hip-hop auteur Kanye West is slated to perform in Israel. The heavily decorated pop extraordinaire made a trip to the country this past April with his wife, reality television star Kim Kardashian.

What makes Israel appealing to Kanye West? Maybe it’s the hip-hop scene emerging throughout the country – bringing together numerous strands and styles to produce a fertile take on the American, but increasingly international, genre.

Though hip-hop in Israel is on more fan radars in 2015 than ever before, the genre initially got a huge boost in 1995 when Brooklyn’s the Beastie Boys toured the country and gave an interview with influential radio host Quami de la Fox. Later that year, the band Shabak Samech started writing hip-hop music with a strong emphasis on partying and having fun. Heavily influenced by the Beastie Boys, Shabak Samech are now credited with and celebrated as Israel’s first hip-hop band.

This music video for the Ben Blackwell's “Israel We Go Hard” is based off of Jay-Z’s “Brooklyn We Go Hard.”This music video for Ben Blackwell's “Israel We Go Hard” is based off of Jay-Z’s “Brooklyn We Go Hard.” (Photo: Facebook)

Today there are a number of established hip-hop artists in Israel including Hadag Nachash – whose "The Sticker Song" strung together bumper sticker logos into a dizzying lyrical tour de force – as well as Subliminal and Sagol 59. The latter made some waves this year when he released an album featuring Grateful Dead songs translated into Hebrew.

None other than Vice Magazine sent a documentary team to Israel recently to track the now-more-diverse-than-ever hip-hop scene. In episode 3 of their series, they visit the town of Dimona where breakout star Ben Blackwell writes anthems like “Israel We Go Hard.”

Blackwell's father was a music star himself, creating the now vintage obscure collection "The Soul Messengers of Dimona, Israel" – an amazing R&B album packed with jazz riffs, funky breakdowns and strange synth-lines.

In the Israeli town of Herzliya, British hip-hop star Mike Skinner visits a radio station to check out Jigga Juice, a hip-hop radio show which spins U.S. artists like Nas and MF Doom alongside Israelis such as Lukach and Nechi Nech. The latter even have their own remix of a Kanye West song. Luckily for hip-hop heads who can’t make the trip themselves, Jigga Juice maintains an online presence including some recordings and interviews entirely in English.

Will Kanye West check out the local hip-hop scene while he’s in Israel? West is known for drawing an eclectic number of sounds and rhythms from around the world into his music. We wouldn't be surprised to learn that the pro finds some new tricks to add to his beat arsenal during his visit.

Mordechai Shinefield has been writing about music for over a decade for a variety of periodicals including Rolling Stone, Spin Magazine and the Village Voice. His tastes in music run the gamut; Malian desert blues and palm wine music from Sierra Leone, leftfield electronica, Middle Eastern folk metal, sun-soaked psychedelic folk, avant garde free jazz, vaporwave, and even some top 40.

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