Eprhyme: The “Punklezmerap” Video Deciphered
Matthue Roth of My Jewish Learning
new music video is getting all sorts of play — at least, among the world of Jewish YouTube videos. But what’s it all about? We asked Eprhyme as well as Shemspeed founder Diwon, the Yemenite DJ, to tell us.
The “Punklezmerap” video, shot by hip-hop and R&B director Lenny Bass (Fantasia, De La Soul), incorporates a crazy cast of characters from the sacred to the profane, to the profanely sacred. There are several fun cameos, both of other awesome artists in the Jewish world and of people who you wouldn’t expect to find there, and some cool allusions to Jewish tradition and ritual.
First, watch the video. Then, read below for our exegetical commentary.
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1 A.M. Eprhyme says: “The video was filmed in the basement of Levi Okunov’s boutique, The 1929, in SoHo.” Okunov is a fashion designer with Hasidic roots who’s made a name of mixing Hasidic fashion sensibilities with radical couture.
Eprhyme: The video opens with Shir Yaakov gettin’ his freak on in a boa….Shir is an amazing singer/songwriter, and the other half of my newest project, Darshan.”
Elke Reva Sudin, a NY-based Orthodox artist and comic book creator, sketches away. (And, yep, her hair’s covered.) “No one expected the energy to be quite so insane,” says Diwon. “I think Lenny did a great job of capturing the energy that was there and the energy in the song and getting that across on film.”
Y-Love, another Orthodox rapper and Eprhyme’s labelmate, can be seen goofing off throughout the video. Here, he’s wrapping up a wine glass in a cloth napkin, a common practice at Jewish weddings. “Twelve cheap wine glasses were smashed during the making of this video,” Eprhyme notes. Also in the background is DeScribe, a.k.a. Shneur HaSofer, who recorded the Change E.P. with Y-Love. “Shneur just dropped by to see how the next video was coming out,” says Diwon. “He had no idea what to expect.”
Eprhyme: “Arrington de Dionysion (Old Time Relijun, [a band on legendary Olympia indie-rock label] K Records) plays bass clarinet. He brought along two of his free jazz buddies for the shoot.” K Records, Eprhyme’s former label, also released Beck’s first album, as well as the Moldy Peaches, from the film “Juno.”
On the turntables throughout the video is Diwon, the Yemenite DJ, who also owns Shemspeed Records. What record is he holding? “Eprhyme’s single,” he says. “It’s the original vinyl of the song from K Records, on their international pop underground series.”
Eprhyme: “We basically wanted to recreate an Olympia basement party. We were representing underground music…literally underground. This is what hip hop looks and feels like outside the club. It’s a freakshow of religious fun addicts! [Someone named] Segulah was sportin’ an Ecudorian spirit mask. My homeboy Moshe the Peddler, who was a wine distributor at the time, had a kosher wine tasting during the shoot. Look out for Emily Peck on stilts!”
The video concludes with the boys sitting around on the floor, getting ready to smash a glass. MJL’s guide to Jewish weddings says: “The wedding ceremony ends with the breaking of the glass, which symbolizes that even in times of great joy, we remember that there is still pain in the world (which Jewish tradition relates to the destruction of the Jewish Temple). In most weddings, after the glass is broken it is time to jump up and yell, ‘Mazal Tov!’”