Jewish Troubles with Uppity Rappers
“[Jews] have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes [their] agenda.”
Kanye West, 2022
“The Jews have a grip on America.”
Professor Griff, Public Enemy, 1989.
The narrator of the opening chapter of William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury is Benjy Compson, a 33-year-old man with an intellectual disability who is very much the embarrassment of his disintegrating family. Compson’s diminished mental capacity, and the ‘stream of consciousness’ manner in which his thoughts and perceptions are presented to the reader, make for an extremely challenging read. The result is that relatively few who embark upon the novel outside of a university setting will persevere and finish it. Those who do finish the novel, and better yet those who re-read it, are however rewarded with the understanding that behind the verbal ‘noise’ of Benjy’s apparent nonsense is an astute and unbiased insight into the motivations and behaviors of many of the novel’s other characters. In other words, despite his limitations, Benjy has some important things to say.
Ye’s Sound and Fury
Faulkner’s difficult novel came to mind during this month’s moral panic, and subsequent attempted financial annihilation, over comments made by Kanye West, now known simply as Ye, on the Jews. West’s comments certainly have a Benjy-esque quality to them, jumping from one observation to another without elaboration or logical progression. It’s probably best recounting them, more or less in the order of utterance:
- Blacks are the 12 lost tribes of Israel, and therefore the real Jews.
- It is impossible for West to be described as antisemitic because he is a Jew.
- Jared Kushner only worked on a peace deal between Israel and Arab nations in order to make money.
- Ye wished his children had learned about Hannukah instead of “a complicated Kwanzaa,” because Hannukah would at least “come with some financial engineering.”
- “Jewish people have owned the Black voice. Either it’s through us wearing the Ralph Lauren shirt, or it’s all of us being signed to a record label, or having a Jewish manager, or being signed to a Jewish basketball team, or doing a movie on a Jewish platform like Disney.”
- “Paparazzi taking a photo of you, you ain’t getting no money off of it. You’re used to getting screwed by the Jewish media. And I’m saying, you poked the bear too fucking long.”
- “They blocked me out. The Jewish media blocked me out.”
- “This ain’t a game. Imma use you as an example to show the Jewish people that told you to call me that no one can threaten or influence me. I told you this is war. Now gone get you some business.”
- “I’m a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I’m going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE. The funny thing is I actually can’t be Anti Semitic because black people are actually Jew also. You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.”
While there is a lot of ‘noise’ and nonsense (Blacks as Jews) here, there are also some discernible and perfectly reasonable observations. Through his comments on Kushner and Hannukah, West suggests that Jews have a special relationship with money. Jews have, of course, been at great pains in the many volumes of apologetics and propaganda they have produced for over a century to deny any such relationship. Yet all historical and contemporary sociological data suggest that such a special relationship exists. The fact that Jews worry that widespread understanding of this relationship with money will result in a lowering of their reputation, and possible action to mitigate their success in obtaining and utilizing wealth, does not take away from the truthfulness inherent in the basic fact their privileged position in the West is long-standing, empirically observable, and obvious.
This obviousness is inferred in West’s observation that Jews occupy leading positions in many industries, including the fashion industry, the music industry, sports management and ownership, and the movie industry. West’s claim that “Jewish people have owned the Black voice,” would seem to me not only to refer to Jews profiting from managing Black musicians and seeking their works, but also more subtly to such phenomena as Jews historically taking leading roles in organizations like the NAACP. By far the most glaring comments made by West are those referring to the Jewish power to censor. West talks of “blocking out,” threats and influence against him, and the attempt to “black ball” anyone opposed to Jewish interests.
Whether or not West’s comments are helpful to those wishing for a rise in awareness of these precise issues is a matter for debate. Their presentation in such a ham-fisted and outrageous manner is far from ideal, but this downside may be offset by the fame of people like West (over 31 million followers on Twitter) and, ironically, the fact this kind of communication is relatively well-received and understood by the target audience, the Black population. That being said, few celebrities have come forward to support West. To my knowledge the only person of note is Black comedian Dave Chappelle, who once courted controversy himself for a Netflix special joke about “Space Jews” which jabbed at Jewish brutality against Palestinians. The jury is still out on the utility of West’s comments.
Lessons in Power and Censorship
For me, the biggest takeaway from the Ye outburst and its aftermath is the impressive demonstration of Jewish influence and power, exhibited in the form of censorship. In this regard, it’s important to point out that there have been prior cases of celebrities, and rappers in particular — see the case of Ice Cube, daring to mention the existence of Jewish dominance within the entertainment industry and subsequently being forced into grovelling apologies or, in more extreme cases, into exile. One example worth highlighting, purely because it has so many astonishing parallels with the Ye case, is that of Richard ‘Professor Griff’ Griffin, from the hip hop group Public Enemy, who uttered some controversial remarks in 1989.
In an interview with David Mills of the Washington Times in May 1989, Professor Griff responded to one question by telling Mills he believed “the Jews are wicked,” and that he could prove it. “They have a history of killing black men,” said Griff. “The Jews can come against me. They can send the IRS after me. They can send their faggot little hit men. I mean, that don’t move me. Listen, they have a history of doing this.” Griff supported his comments with references to Henry Ford’s “The International Jew,” and added that he’d obtained his knowledge of Jewish history from the Nation of Islam’s historical research department. Griff, like the other members of Public Enemy, belonged to the Nation of Islam. As the interview with Mills progressed, he further alleged that “The Jews have their hands right around (President) Bush’s throat. He won’t make the wrong move. You understand what I’m saying? The Jews have a grip on America.”
As with Ye’s comments, the emphasis here is on Jewish power and control, over the lives of Black people but more generally over the entire nation. Retribution was swift. Griff was labeled a “stone-cold racist” by Lyor Cohen of Rush Management, perhaps the most influential hip hop manager of the period (Cohen later moved to Warner, but is now YouTube’s Global Head of Music). Although Rush had been founded by Russell Simmons (a Black man whose other ventures involved a close partnership with Jew Rick Rubin), Cohen slowly assumed almost total leadership before handing control of the holding company for all Rush’s entertainment assets to fellow Jew Todd Moscowitz. Cohen’s other protégé within Rush was fellow Jew Julie Greenwald (Cohen was himself the protege of Jewish music moguls Jerry Moss and Herb Alpert). In fact, Cohen was part of a long history of powerful and often exploitative Jewish networking in Black music that has been “whitewashed” in every sense of the term. Take, for example, the following description of Cohen from a 2001 Rolling Stone article:
In these years, he has grown into perhaps the most powerful white executive in an African-American business. The history of rock & roll is, of course, riddled with pioneering white record men who built careers recording and, sometimes, exploiting black artists: Morris Levy, that burly, cigar-smoking product of the Brill Building, allegedly stealing writing credits from Frankie Lyman; Herman Lubinsky, the founder of Savoy Records in Newark, New Jersey, throwing around nickels as if they were manhole covers. But Cohen – Cohen is something different. [emphasis added]
Cohen, Levy, and Lubinsky — just your average “White” guys.
In the immediate aftermath of Professor Griff’s May 1989 comments, Lyor Cohen announced the full disbandment of Public Enemy. A few days later, however, Cohen decided to reinstate the band on condition that Griff be removed. It then fell to another “White” music mogul, Def Jam records publicist Bill Adler, to announce that Griff would be fired from Public Enemy.
Whose body language indicates dominance and submission? Jewish Def Jam Records publicist Bill Adler introduces Rapper Chuck D, left, of Public Enemy, as the latter prepares to bow to pressure and fire bandmate Professor Griff for making anti-Jewish remarks, June 21, 1989.
Not only did band member Chuck D make a grovelling apology on behalf of Professor Griff, but he also made what was presumably a much more acceptable call to arms (at least to his Jewish superiors) when he said that “the problem is the system of white world supremacy.”
In a 2020 interview, Griff explained he felt like he was “thrown under the bus” by Chuck D, and that Chuck D didn’t want him out of Public Enemy but that the heads of Def Jam, in league with “Jewish groups like the ADL,” put pressure on Chuck D to kick him out of the group. Chuck D was reported to have had an angry outburst after the public firing of Griff, and in Public Enemy’s first single after the episode, “Welcome to the Terrordome,” he exorcised his frustrations, drawing more criticism from the ADL, which deemed the lyrics antisemitic:
Crucifixion ain’t no fiction
So-called chosen frozen
Apology made to whoever pleases
Still they got me like Jesus.
Bill Adler later said of Griff’s comments, “It wasn’t just a PR nightmare. It affected me personally because I’m Jewish and I didn’t like the idea that one of our groups was spouting these anti-Semitic comments. It was upsetting to me.” Adler explained that he called Griff in for a discussion but was dismayed that Griff appealed to “a book written by Henry Ford.” Rather than debunk Ford’s work, Adler began to describe the manner in which Ford had created two Detroit suburbs, one for White workers (Dearborn) and the other (Inkster) for Black workers. In other words, Adler tried to deflect Griff’s animosity away from the Jews, and towards Ford/segregation/Whites, even going so far as to tell Griff “[Ford] would have gladly upholstered his cars with your Black hide as well as my Jewish hide.” Griff replied, “Bill, I can’t help it. It’s in the book.”
Griff’s refusal to bow to Jewish pressure in 1989 led to career annihilation. Public Enemy later quietly attempted to reintroduce him into some form of participation in band activities, but were condemned by then ADL chief Abe Foxman who accused Public Enemy of a “repugnant charade characterized by cynicism and disdain for the public.” Public Enemy responded by releasing a track called “Swindler’s Lust” in 1999 and by forming “Confrontation Camp,” a short-lived spinoff project that put Griff in a starring role. But Griff never fully recovered.
In recent years he’s more or less taken to begging Jews to forgive him. According to an article in The Forward:
Ambassadors from Jewish organizations said in recent interviews that they simply do not think Griff has made the proper admission of guilt required for public forgiveness and re-entry into the world of mass culture. But in a series of conversations over the last several weeks, Griff told me that he is still seeking that cultural passport, and vindication for having his life “destroyed” by being labeled a Jew-hater. He said he would do whatever it takes — but that the Jewish world won’t let him. “I’ll go to the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Black Power movement center, the Black Lives Matter, the White House, and I’ll apologize everywhere I need to apologize,” Griff told me. “They will never be fucking satisfied. … You can go fucking do back flips, apologize to until the fucking cows come home. You will always be antisemitic.”
Jews Fear Black anti-Semitism
While Jews are obviously desirous and capable of snuffing out any and all criticism, they are particularly sensitive to influential examples from the Black population. In Separation and Its Discontents, Kevin MacDonald identifies the key themes of anti-Semitism as including an understanding that, speaking in general terms, Jews
- represent a separate and clannish foreign group with their own set of interests;
- are highly adept at resource competition and have a tendency towards economic domination;
- tend to engage as cultural actors in order to shape non-Jewish culture to suit Jewish interests;
- form a cohesive political entity that seeks politically dominant roles in non-Jewish societies;
- possess negative personality traits, including the pursuance of a system of dual ethics in which non-Jews can be treated badly and exploited;
- are disloyal to the host nation in all fundamental and meaningful ways
Among Black expressions of animosity toward Jews, the same themes can be observed, arising first from more modest economic conflicts and, as such, having something more in common with the complaints of the early modern European peasantries. Horace Mann Bond, in his own 1965 reflections on “Negro Attitudes Toward Jews,” comments on the fact Jews historically appeared in the African-American environment overwhelmingly as pawnbrokers, as monopolists of the liquor trade (“The Jews have a stranglehold on the liquor stores in this town”), as the primary sellers on credit of clothing and other essential items, and, perhaps most crucial of all, as the slumlord and property dealer (“Some Jews have bought up that urban re-development land and are putting up shoddy apartments they call “Nigger housing” on it”). In 2016, local news website Patch published a list of the 100 worst slumlords in Harlem, with the top ten including seven Jews (Mark Silber, Adam Stryker, Joel Goldstein, Marc Chemtob, Moshe Deutsch, Solomon Gottlieb, and Jason Green), a representation that has remained roughly constant every year, with Jews persistently claiming top ranking for building violations, rodent infestations, lack of maintenance, exploitative rent, mold, and other forms of building decay injurious to health. Indeed, this situation has at times resulted in considerable embarrassment to Jews.
Indeed, it is the sheer dominance and proximity of the Jews as primary exploiters of Blacks that has often caused a quite radical break in the Black imagination between perceiving wholesale “White oppression,” and the more nuanced understanding that Jews are a distinctive class unto themselves. Moreover, the reality of day-to-day interethnic exploitation leaves little room for abstract apologetic theories of anti-Semitism, since the problem is never that Jews arouse hostility merely on account of their religion or identity, but rather that Jews arouse hostility because of their behavior within certain ecological contexts (i.e., as a dominant clique within the rap scene). As Bond explains,
It is my considered view that Negro attitudes and actions towards Jews that are frequently interpreted as “antisemitic” actually lack the sinister thought-content they are sometimes advertised as holding. The occasional riots against small businessmen and landlords in Harlem — persons who may happen to be Jews — do not, in my opinion, actually possess the “classic” emotional load of aggression against a Jewish “race” or “religion,” that has been considered the essence of antisemitism.
One of the most prominent Jewish strategies when discussing Black anti-Semitism is the attempt to preserve both Jewish and Black senses of victimhood, and thus preserve the idea of an alliance against an allegedly oppressive White society. So it was hardly surprising for me to hear that Bill Adler’s first approach to Professor Griff involved a quite ludicrous attempt to turn him against the ‘racist’ Henry Ford.
The very existence of a Black anti-Semitism is highly disruptive to established victim narratives which deny the privileged status of Jews as a wealthy and influential elite within Western society. While White anti-Semitism can still be portrayed (thanks to endless propaganda) as a top-down form of oppression directed against Jews, Black anti-Semitism flips the narrative since a received wisdom of modern culture is that Blacks are the most disadvantaged ethnic group in society. When Blacks “punch up” and the target is Jews, the only available solution to Jews is censorship. Blacks who grovel enough, and with enough sincerity (like Nick Cannon and Ice Cube) will be rehabilitated through Holocaust tours and such, and their apologies will be widely broadcast as a form of propaganda literature in its own right.
But those who don’t, like Professor Griff, will have their careers destroyed and they will vanish from the cultural spotlight. It may even be worse than that. In a remarkable incident covered by Tucker Carlson, Jewish trainer Harley Pasternak even threatened to have Kanye West drugged and institutionalised: “You go back to Zombieland forever.” The future of Kanye ‘Ye’ West is currently uncertain, but will undoubtedly be dictated by the extent to which he apologizes to his masters.
Lyor Cohen and Kanye West
 H.M. Bond “Negro Attitudes Towards Jews,” Jewish Social Studies, Vol. 27, No. 1, Papers and Proceedings of a Conference on Negro-Jewish Relations in the United States (Jan., 1965), 3-9, p.5.