La Coka Nostra’s Ill Bill isn’t just one of our favorite NY rappers, he’s also a deep-thinker well-versed in hip-hop, conspiracy theories, street life and religion. So when Rick Ross dropped his provocatively-titled “Black Bar Mitzvah” Mass Appeal had to reach out to him to get his take on things. Here’s what he had to say.
Mass Appeal: You’re Jewish and definitely a hardcore street rapper, what do you think of Rick Ross’s “Black Bar Mitvah” mixtape title and the artwork, music aside?
Ill Bill: It’s amusing to me. How you gonna call your mixtape “Black Bar Mitzvah” but have artists signed to your label with swazi tattoos? That’s kinda suspect to me. Ross ain’t dumb though. He knows calling it that will get people’s attention, get some Jewish kids excited, plus piss a bunch of people off. Controversy sells. If he’d called it “I Get Money” or whatever, nobody would give a fuck. He named it that to get people talking. He’s smart. I think what he’s doing is a little bit of a mockery though. It’s buffoonery. He knows that though. If I had juice with Rick Ross, I’d tell him to go all out and do a video dressed like a Black Hebrew Israelite. Put him in front of Macy’s on 34th St. or Times Square with the mic plugged into the guitar amp. Have him rocking that Judas Priest/Soul Sonic Force meets Beyond Thunderdome look. That’d be hard as hell. He’s already got the Black Moses beard. Why not?
Do you think Shyne is kinda reaching by claiming that Ross ripped off his Jewish swag?
Yeah. I understand why Shyne don’t fuck with dude though. Nobody that just did ten joints is gonna co-sign a C.O. turned rapper. That’s asking a lot.
Why do you think so many black rappers are fascinated by the Jewish faith and culture?
‘Cause Jews are gangsta. It’s not just the black rappers. We’re all fascinated by Murder Inc. and the culture that spawned them. They were the OG Brownsville goons before M.O.P. were even born. Guys like Bugsy Siegel and Meyer Lansky are Jewish legends that’d probably bug out if they knew how much their stories have inspired rap music. Everybody roots for the so-called villain, the anti-hero. The guy that came from nothing and made himself into something, singing “Fuck The Police” on the way to the top. Jay-Z has the same story.
Are Jews the new Italians when it comes to hip-hop street imagery?
Maybe. But Jews were right there alongside the Italians in the beginning of all that American gangster shit. Jews might be getting more shine right now though ’cause the Italian thing has been overdone. The Jewish gangster hasn’t been played out in Hip Hop yet.
A lot of people associate Murder Inc. with Ja Rule and Irv Gotti without knowing where the name came from can you drop some jewels on the people out their about the real Murder Incorporated?
Murder Inc., the OG version, was a mosse of Brooklyn killers, mostly Jews, run by a Jew named Louie Lepke. They did their thing during the 1930s & ’40s and were basically a hit squad that carried out contracts for over a thousand murders for the Italian and Jewish Mafia in the United States.
When you first started rapping was it difficult being a Jewish MC in hip-hop? Did you catch any flak?
I definitely experienced eye rolls and skepticism before I opened my mouth, like “who’s this white kid think he is coming up into the cypher?”. Not really for being Jewish ‘cause you usually can’t tell if somebody’s a Jew by just looking at them, but yeah, just being white, I had to rhyme better than the black kid standing next to me to be taken seriously. I had to work harder to get respect. I never caught flak from anybody with a brain though. Once I started to spit, it blew people’s minds. Back then, very few white kids could rap how I was rapping. At that time, you could count the white emcees that could really rhyme on one hand. People thought I was an alien.
I know that you’ve studied many different religions and philosophies, are you a practicing Jew now or are you pretty much secular? Do you identify as religiously Jewish or just ethnically?
I don’t practice Judaism, but I identify with my culture and celebrate some of the holidays with my daughter. I have my own unique take on it. I want her to know her history and where she comes from.
Any advice for rappers who want to learn more about Judaism?
Go build with a black Israelite and go kick it with a white rabbi. Go build with people that study Torah every day and live that life. Hear it directly from the source.
Any advice for rappers who want to learn more about being gangsters?
Go do the same thing. Go kick it with the killers and the hundred dollar billers. See what they’re talking about.