Y-Love merges spirituality, hip-hop

By Hayley Miller

Northeastern’s Hillel and the Northeastern Black Student Association collaborated to bring Y-Love, a black Jewish Orthodox rapper, to the afterHOURS stage Saturday night.

Beth Meltzer, the director of NU Hillel, helped bring the artist, whose real name is Yitz Jordan, to campus.

“He’s really good at hip-hop, but we wanted to hear his story about being Jewish and African-American as well as his hip-hop,” Meltzer said.

Saturday night, the gospel-inspired, serene sounds of Eran Houjan opened for Jordan. Houjan performed a number of spiritual songs with his guitar, with some accompanied by a keyboardist and another vocalist.

“I’m very much a beginner. This is only my second performance,” said Houjan, whose first performance was at the Middle East in Cambridge.

DJ Handler laid down some beats shortly before Jordan took the stage, projecting opening words to his audience that conveyed his belief in the power of music.

“Music is a very powerful thing if you use it in the right way,” he said.

Born into a Catholic family in Baltimore, Jordan discovered a desire to convert to Judaism when he was seven years old after seeing a public service announcement on television wishing people a “Happy Passover.”

“I went around drawing [Stars of David] around the house and I said ‘Mommy, I want to be Jewish,'” Jordan said.

Commonly compared to fellow Orthodox Jewish rapper Matisyahu, Jordan’s intertwining of his spirituality and beliefs with hip-hop in multiple languages – including English, Hebrew, Aramaic and even at times Russian and Chinese – stems from his travels to Israel and his devotion to Judaism.

“I go basically every year,” he said. “Had I not been interested in learning about the Torah there, I wouldn’t have started doing hip-hop like this. In Israel, you are given a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in spirituality. There is no disconnect between country, culture and language there.”

Jordan developed his stage name, Y-Love, performing at open mic nights when he returned to the United States.

“Y is the first letter of my name. It represents all Jews coming together,” he said. “Y stands for the first letter of the name of God. ‘Y?’ is the question and love is the answer,” Jordan said.

Jordan describes his style as “global hip-hop.”

“Initially, I started rhyming in mostly English and Aramaic,” he said. “Eventually, any word I know in any language is going to work into my freestyle. It’s the whole hip-hop art form. The poor man’s music. No instruments [are] required and it’s happening all over. Hip-hop is the voice of a lot of different communities.”

Although he recently beat out Matisyahu at the Jewish Music Awards for Best Jewish Rapper, Y-Love’s name is not as well-known as his colleague’s, whom he has performed with in the past.

At his afterHOURS performance, the majority of the small audience had never heard of either him or his music until the show.

“I’ve heard one song on MySpace. That’s basically it,” said freshman theatre major Sarah Bork Dugan.

Jordan performed some of his more popular songs Saturday night, including “Bring It On Down” and “My Garden.” Even with the bass bumping and Jordan rapping, the crowd seemed mostly unresponsive.

“I was disappointed with the number [of people who came],” Meltzer said. “I thought we would get more people. Overall, I think it went really well though.”

Most of the audience chose not to dance, instead standing or wandering toward the back of the club.

“It’s pretty interesting that this music is so moving, but no one is on the dance floor,” said sophomore communication studies major Kevin Lehner.

This didn’t stop a handful of admirers who danced in front of the stage the entire show.

Freshman international affairs major Monica Faberman was one of the few who knew of Y-Love’s music before the concert.

“I can relate to a lot of the stuff,” she said. “It’s more than just a regular concert. It’s fun, but there’s also a meaning.”

In addition to Saturday’s show, Jordan attended various services and events throughout the weekend. Friday, Jordan attended religious services followed by a dinner in which he discussed his life and music. Saturday brought more religious services followed by a special luncheon in which Jordan and his manager, DJ Handler, further discussed their lives, including their time spent in Israel.

Jordan said he hopes to educate people about Israel with his music.

“One thing I hope to do is to show people that what you see is not everything that’s going on,” he said. “I just hope to direct people’s visions upward, direct people’s vision to a higher plane. If people began to look at the world as an interconnected web of humanity and not just in our own backyards, we would be achieving a purpose no matter what religion you are.”