"You can play with my dreidel…"

You’d probably think you’d heard it all, with rappers like Remedy rhyming about the Holocaust, trumpeteers like Frank London infusing acid jazz with klezmer, and chosids like Mattisyahu chanting dancehall reggae. You’d say to yourself, just how far could the limits of Jewish music be stretched? How “out there” could it get?
Well, how about Mexican & Puerto Rican Jews doing a Latin hip hop rendition of “Hava Nagila?” Is that “far out” enough for ya?
The notion itself is frightening, as though some mad scientist knocked over a bunch of beakers in his lab and this “thing” arose from a mixture of elements never intended to meet. It’s an odd curiosity, like a carnival freak you just have to catch a glimpse of no matter how terrified you may be. It’s like a Klansman’s worst nightmare: Kike spics playing nigger music! It just wasn’t supposed to happen! It’s like, it’s like—okay, it’s not that intense. But it’s still good…
Yes friends, The Hip Hop Hoodíos combine the musical stylings of veteran Latin musicians Federico Fong, Josué Noriega, El Gato Escoces & Abraham Velez, into a mixture of humor-induced hip hop, rock, Latino & Sephardic music, most often compared to the Beastie Boys and Tenacious D (to the Hoodíos dismay) but which I find somewhat more reminiscent of Beck’s B-side material, or perhaps of a Latin Paul Barman. Their debut EP, Raza Hoodía, is both inventive and playful, featuring five radio-length cuts including the aforementioned “Havana Nagila” (probably the hottest track on the album), the quintessential title cut, a Latin Chanukah tribute, “Ocho Kandelikas,” and a bilingual rhyme-style that moves seamlessly between English & Espanõl.
While the beats are fresh and their lyrics exceptionally funny (thus making for an overall enjoyable listen), I have to admit, I was a little offended by the Hoodíos constant reprisal of Jewish stereotypes. Two cuts, “Dicks & Noses” and “Kike on the Mic,” are just a little too self-loathing for my taste. It’s one thing to have a sense of humor and poke fun at yourself and another to build an act around it. It’s like, ‘Okay, I get it… You’re Latino Jewish MCs. You have a sense of humor about yourselves, great. Now rhyme about something else.’
Don’t let that dissuade you, though—it’s only two tracks out of five, and I’m sure they’ve got a slew above and beyond the number on this release. While Raza Hoodía may be a little gimmicky, I except great things from these guys, as they continue to explore their Latin Jewish roots and hopefully find some interesting sampling fodder in the traditional Sephardic and Ladino music of the medieval era, a genre still mostly untouched by modern musicians. These guys are definitely a good argument for a Rennaisance in the genre.
The Hip Hop Hoodíos will be appearing at Joe’s Pub this coming Saturday, and again at BAM in November.

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