In light of the recent Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, I think it’s the right time to express my distaste for Lil Dicky as a person of the Jewish faith. I do not consider myself highly religious, but I am proud of my heritage and identity as a Jew.
The history of the Jewish people has been one of eternal struggle. Over thousands of years, the Jewish people have been enslaved and harshly discriminated against and, between 1939 and 1945, six million of my people were systematically murdered in the Holocaust. Things have been rough.
I’ve been far luckier in my own life. I haven’t had to face the multitude or intensity of the struggles my ancestors have had to embrace in the quest for social and religious freedom. I grew up in an unusually Jewish area, where two massive temples are just a short drive from my house. And the University provides many resources for Jewish students, such as Hillel, the Jewish American Resource Center and even a Chabad house just down the street from me. Despite these welcoming environments, I've still had to deal with negative Jewish stereotypes on countless occasions in my life.
I have been aware of Lil Dicky’s music for some time now, and he has acquired broad mainstream attention with his debut album Professional Rapper. His recent music video for “$ave Dat Money” is getting plenty of coverage, too. I wouldn’t write this article had he not achieved some level of success — and to my great surprise. According to Billboard he had the number one Rap Album in America in early August around the album’s release on July 31.
Lil Dicky is exploiting his Jewish heritage for satire. “$ave Dat Money” is a direct appeal to the stereotype of Jews being cheap and petty about money. I’ll give him some credit — it was a wise career decision to get Fetty Wap and Rich Homie Quan on the track. The concept of making a rap music video for as little as possible is comical, too, but the fact that this endeavor is qualified as a product of his Jewishness is what ticks me off. The soliloquy where he makes a fuss about being double charged for a refill of coffee is unimaginative and insulting.
In “$ave Dat Money,” he drops the line “I’mma get on Yelp in a minute and review / This piece of shit place like only a Kike know how.” The recklessness with which Lil Dicky plays up Jewish stereotypes isn’t a one time deal. In “All K” he proclaims “I’m a K-I-K-E.”
“It's OK because he's Jewish,” fans (aptly known as “Dickheads”) might claim, or “It’s satire, you just don’t get it.”
I’m sure some readers think I’m making a big deal out of nothing, or am being too sensitive, but whenever I hear Lil Dicky’s music I’m brought back to my own personal experiences with Jewish stereotypes. I cringe at Lil Dicky’s music because of the connections between the stereotypes he laughs about and the prejudice I’ve experienced in my own life.
At one of my soccer buddies’ catechism celebrations back in the day, one of the family friends in attendance started ranting about Jews. The one particular topic I remember was how “Jews aren’t good at sports,” because they’re weak and unathletic. He continued on with other wild accusations of Jewish people and Israel that he sincerely believed. I would estimate this guy’s age at 55 years — a full grown adult with plenty of grey hairs. I was 12 or 13. I proudly identified myself as a Jew and defended myself, leaving shortly after in extreme discomfort. My friends’ parents simply brushed his remarks off as not a big deal. This would not be the last time I had such an experience.
While this event is particularly salient in my mind as one of my earlier experiences with outright anti-Semitism, all throughout my life I have encountered people making remarks based on negative stereotypes of Jews that aren’t necessarily rooted in an outright hatred like that guy. I can laugh at myself or jokes about someone’s overbearing Jewish grandmother and use of half-assed Yiddish, but sometimes it’s different.
Playing travel soccer in high school, I recall on a couple occasions an opponent muttering about us being “spoiled Jewish kids.”
My first week at college, I met some kid on my hall. I introduced myself and told him my hometown.
“Oh, so you’re a spoiled Jew.”
I nervously laughed, “I wouldn’t say ‘spoiled.’”
I didn’t appreciate his tone or diction. I would never see that kid again, anyway.
Other times in my life I have experienced even more moderate occurrences in everyday life situations.
“You still owe me $10, I’d appreciate it if you paid me back.”
“You’re such a Jew, haha.”
I’m not one to always take such comments lightly, as much as others might not like to make a fuss. Sometimes I angrily respond to such comments, typically surprising or upsetting the person. They too are quick to excuse it and brush it aside.
“It’s not a big deal.”
“It’s just a joke, relax.”
Other times I’m simply too tired to say much more than a half-hearted “F*** you.”
I’d like to reiterate the fact that I have always gone through life with a strong Jewish minority around me in my communities, or, very infrequently, a majority. I can imagine it would only be worse being one of three Jewish students at a school of 2,000, like some of friends at my temple in high school, or living in parts of the U.S. where people my age have never met a Jewish person prior to college.
I think Lil Dicky’s self-deprecating shtick gets old, but that’s not what I’m here to discuss. I can appreciate his goofy antics to some extent, but not how Lil Dicky uses negative Jewish stereotypes to carve out his comedic persona as a rapper.
And it isn’t a challenge for him to achieve this image. He has Sephardic physical attributes that listeners likely associate with Jewishness — curly black hair, a black beard, etc.
In relation to Lil Dicky feeding off of stereotypes, there’s something to be said of Black rappers using the N-word and perpetuating negative stereotypes, but I don’t believe it’s my place to say much because, as a white person, I don’t know what it’s like to experience that discrimination. I do know that in “All K” Lil Dicky claims that if Black people can “say the N word / I sure as fuck can say Kike / Do something about it, pussy.” I suppose socially speaking this may be true, but that doesn’t mean you should. As Dave Chappelle reflected on his time with “The Chappelle Show,” his sketches were “funny, but socially irresponsible.”
Lil Dicky is purposefully utilizing hyper-exaggerated Jewish stereotypes as one of the primary pillars of his career. And there doesn’t appear to be a silver lining — he’s not using these stereotypes ironically to break them down. Listeners might be laughing, but as Dave Chappelle realized before deciding to cancel “The Chappelle Show,” there’s a certain way a group may be laughing at a joke that makes it not so funny or satirical. There’s a difference between people laughing with you and people laughing at you.