Arts & Culture

DeScribe: Homeland-Grown Gangsta for Peace

When hip-hop audiences talk about being born into the game, they don’t usually mean like this. DeScribe, a.k.a. Shneur Hasofer, is the son of Hasidic singer-songwriter Devorah Hasofer, whose music I’ve never heard—her albums specify that her singing is “for … Read More

By / April 24, 2008

When hip-hop audiences talk about being born into the game, they don’t usually mean like this. DeScribe, a.k.a. Shneur Hasofer, is the son of Hasidic singer-songwriter Devorah Hasofer, whose music I’ve never heard—her albums specify that her singing is “for women and girls only”—but I’d be willing to bet they don’t sound much alike.

And when hip-hop audiences talk about getting made, they also don’t usually mean it this way. DeScribe was born in Australia, moved to Israel as a child, and served as a sharpshooter in the Israeli army. This, and other life experiences (everything from growing up in Israel to touring with Killah Priest and Remedy of the Wu-Tang Clan) informs his music—personal, unapologetic, and politically charged. He currently writes and records beats and lyrics out of a studio inside his Seagate, New York yeshiva.

Obviously, you’re going for a different audience than your mother—but are you targeting mostly observant people, mostly non-observant people, or both? What’s the ultimate goal of your music?

My crowd is definitely different to that of my mother's, though my mother’s music isn't limited to the religious world, either. Being Hassidic Jews, we both believe in reaching out to the world with a positive message. Using the medium of hip-hop, I want to reach all walks of life and cultures.

The last time I asked my mother's opinion on my music, she told me she was my number one fan. In general both, my parents are very supportive when I invest my energies in a positive manner.

What was it like to be a sharpshooter in the Israeli army?

Joining the army at the age of 17 was a very emotional experience, and a very spiritual one. As a soldier, I felt a sense of honor and love for Israel and realized that I was in a situation not that different from my ancestors, who gave their lives in battle to protect our land, our culture and our sacred way of life. It caused me to mature and realize some realities of life.

Did you discuss politics with Killah Priest?

From what I remember, Killah Priest was more interested in the spiritual and biblical significance of Israel and the Jewish people. He is more the spiritual type, having grown up in a devout Christian home.

It seems from your lyrics like you’re trying to be a voice of reason and to inspire your listeners, but you’re also working out your own issues. What’s it like to take stuff you’re thinking about or wrestling with and put it on display?

In the Hassidic way of life, we’re encouraged to continuously grow. Our leaders have taught us there’s no such thing as staying in one place. Like a ball on a hill—if it’s not propelled up, then it’s rolling down.

In your single "iSong," you work with a lot of violent imagery—“Blam blam in my brain/everybody going insane,” goes one lyric. Then later, you sing, “Why me/why you/is it cause I am a Jew?” over images of an Israeli flag burning and Palestinian sharpshooters.

Ego is the root of all evil and the driving force behind today’s modern culture. It’s all about “how big I am,” “how respected I am”—it’s all coming from “me.” “Blam blam” expresses my opposition to the root of violence, which is ego. It's not a call to arms. It’s a call to question the world we live in, and to realize that there’s a purpose and reality bigger than our immediate surroundings.

What about the message “May Hashem avenge their blood” at the end—is this an expression of rage? A call to arms? What do you think should be done about the whole situation?

During production, I learned of the brutal massacre at Yeshiva Merkaz Harav and, therefore, our emotions affected the music video. It’s an issue I'm sure the world relates to, since these attacks are one of the symptoms of the low state of today’s society. Virginia Tech is just one of the many cases worldwide.

I don’t claim to be able to accept or judge these evil people, being a limited human being. As a result of thought, not rage, I ask G-d to avenge the blood of the young victims.

It’s interesting that you use Holocaust imagery together with footage of terrorist attacks. These days, when the Holocaust’s brought up in the context of the Israel-Palestine conflict, it’s mostly by Palestinian activists trying to draw parallels between concentration camps and Palestinian internment camps. What do you think of that?

As a combat infantry soldier in time of war, I happened upon a number of these Palestinian “internment” camps and it is a complete oxymoron for anyone to even jokingly compare a Nazi work camp to a Palestinian refugee camp. These so-called camps are towns with stores, roads and facilities—no different to any other town. They’re not surrounded by armed guards, the people are not worked to death, not confined to cells, not used as human experiments, not subject to mass genocide.

The camps serve as a refuge from the Arab countries from which the refugees fled in fear of their lives. There are some who suffer harsh conditions, as expected in war, but a comparison between the six million murdered in the Holocaust to a war between Israel and the Palestinians is totally inappropriate and misleading.

Who are the dudes in handkerchiefs near the end of the video?

The 'dudes' in handkerchiefs appear with the words "Lead a life of temptation, with no inspiration, it's the adaptation of this generation.” This gang footage and the child clutching the weapon epitomize our generation—stooped in the worship of self, money and criminal violence and murder.

If we can begin to ask "why," we’ll discover a deeper truth beyond the limits of human understanding, a reality of spiritual value beyond our immediate existence. Why turn to the ground when you can turn to the heavens?