Off Key: How Some Popular Music Spreads Anti-Semitism


Jay Z. Photo: Joella Marano via Wikimedia Commons.

As the number of hate crimes targeting Jews around the world skyrockets, one area that is receiving less attention is the existence of anti-Jewish stereotypes in the music industry. In this article, I’ll explore how Judeophobia has subtly crept into lyrics and live concerts, how musicians are abusing their fame to spread anti-Jewish conspiracies, and how online music platforms are impacting the spread of anti-Semitism in the 21st century. .

One of the most egregious ways in which crude stereotypes influence the mainstream music industry is through the inclusion of harmful lyrics about Jews in popular songs.

Here are some of the most egregious examples of anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish bias in contemporary music:

  • Michael Jackson’s 1996 hit “They Don’t Care About Us”, which features the lyrics “Jew me, sue me, everyone do me / Kick me, kike me, don’t you black or white me”. Jackson later apologized for the lyrics and re-released the song with the words “Jew” and “kike” removed. Nevertheless, contemporary covers of the song still retain some or all of the original lyrics. The 2016 cover by American rock band Saliva retained the words “Jew me, sue me” and the 2021 version by European hit band Beast in Black retained the two offensive lyrics.
  • Famous hip-hop artist Jay-Z’s 2017 song “Story of OJ” features the lyrics: “Want to know what’s more important than throwing money at a strip club? Credit/ Have you ever wondered why the Jews own all the property in America?
  • Described as “what the Protocols [of the Elders of Zion] would sound like with sax accompaniment,” Van Morrison’s 2021 song “They Control the Media” implicitly references the classic anti-Semitic trope of Jews controlling the media, with lyrics such as “They own the media, they control / stories we are told / If you ever go against them / you will be ignored.
  • Rapper BoB’s 2016 song “Flatline” included the lyrics “Do your research on David Irving / Stalin was way worse than Hitler / That’s why the POTUS gotta wear a yarmulke.”
  • In his 2016 song “NERD,” rapper Lupe Fiasco includes the words: “Artists are being robbed for publication by dirty Jewish leaders who think it’s handouts for the covenant.
  • Even the world of opera is not immune to anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish stereotypes. “The Death of Klinghoffer”, which is based on the hijacking of the Achille Lauro by the Palestine Liberation Front in 1985 and the murder of Leon Klinghoffer, has been accused of glorifying terrorism and perpetuating anti-Semitic stereotypes.
  • Antisemitism in popular music is a global problem. In 2018, the German equivalent of the Grammys sparked controversy by awarding the prize to hip-hop duo Kollegah and Farid Bang, known for a song that includes the words “My body is more defined than those of Auschwitz inmates”. .
  • In 2022, popular K-pop group EPEX released a song that included lyrics containing the words “Crystal night,” a reference to the Nazi Kristallnacht pogrom. In the accompanying music video, the band members wore Nazi-style uniforms.

Besides popular song lyrics, another way that anti-Semitic bias has entered the world of mainstream music is through the use of anti-Jewish symbols and tropes at concerts and live performances. Here are some notable examples:

As influential role models, musicians can be a force for good, bringing attention to important causes and helping those in need.

However, some famous musicians have used their fame and influence to peddle anti-Semitic conspiracies and anti-Jewish prejudice. Examples include:

  • Pink Floyd member Roger Waters has previously expressed his views that the United States is controlled by Jewish-American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, that the “Jewish Lobby” controls the music industry, and that Israelis are comparable to aliens.
  • In 2020, during a Twitter rant full of conspiracy theories, rapper Ice Cube posted several controversial images, including one that links Jewish people to the 9/11 attacks and another that depicts a group of Jewish bankers playing Monopoly on the backs of others. .
  • In 2021, rapper Wiley was suspended from social media after posting a number of anti-Semitic messages which included the tweet, “Actually there are 2 groups of people no one really wanted to challenge #Jewish & #KKK but being in business for 20 years, you start to see why,” along with an image of him in Hasidic attire alongside the words: “Jewish faces that control hiphop and mainstream black music.”
  • Chuck Maultsby, frontman of country band Chuck Wagon and the Wheels, has voiced a number of conspiracy theories, including that Jewish CDC members are responsible for ‘COVID terror’, and that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by Jewish agents. .

And other trends are just as alarming.

With the rise of music sharing platforms like Spotify and SoundCloud, it’s never been easier for independent artists to share their music with the world. However, this expansion of the music industry also provided fertile ground for anti-Semitic musicians to spread their hatred to a wider audience than before.

In a 2021 investigation by the UK-based Israel Advocacy Movement, Spotify was found to allow tracks with obscene anti-Semitic lyrics to be shared on its platform.

One such example is the song “Secret War” by rapper K-Rino, an artist with over 50,000 monthly subscribers, which features the lyrics “And fly you through the circle of Zionist rights / Top rabbis and pedophile Jews / Get their Babylonian Talmud values.The song was later removed, but K-Rino still exists on the platform as a verified artist.

Another example is the song “Goy Boy” by Spotify-verified artist Payday Monsanto. This song includes the lyrics “Prove to me the Holocaust ain’t a fraud / And I’ll give you a six million dollar reward.”

These are just two examples of what some experts have called Spotify’s “dark side”.

As we have seen, the modern music industry is no stranger to anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish prejudice. Whether it’s musicians turning classic Jewish conspiracy tropes into songs, performers displaying anti-Jewish symbols during live performances, or artists using their influence to spread anti-Semitic conspiracy theories online, the he industry should be concerned about the relationship between anti-Semitism and popular music.

The author is a contributor to HonestReporting, a Jerusalem-based media watchdog that focuses on anti-Semitism and anti-Israel bias – where a version of this article first appeared.

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