Because every summer deserves a great soundtrack, the Scroll is pleased to present an in-depth look into Israel’s hip-hop scene, one Hebrew rapper at a time, in alphabetical order.
When Americans learned that Tom Hanks’s son, Chet Haze, was an aspiring rapper, many reacted as you’d expect of a generation reared on snark, swagger, and social media and told the young man, in no uncertain terms, what he ought to go and do with himself. Israelis were just as dubious at first about rap duo Cohen@Moshon, which is made up of Michael Cohen and Michael Moshonov, both the children of well-known actors. But the two worked hard, put out two albums packed with playful, joyous songs, and played to a swelling fan base in clubs all over the country. And then, at the cusp of stardom, they left it all behind.
It was 2011, and Moshonov, following a girlfriend, settled in New York. Cohen, a fan of West Coast hip-hop, moved to Los Angeles. America’s two great cities, it turned out, were the perfect backdrop for two great Israeli artists to have their quarter-life crises: Pondering the meaning of life, truth, and beauty, the Michaels returned home eager to pick up their mics once again.
They driven by grief. Arik Einstein, who was Israel’s most iconic singer as well as a close friend of Moshonov’s father, the actor Moni Moshonov, passed away in 2013, and his death lead the two young men, sensitive barometers of their culture, to rethink Israeli music’s history and its past. Sampling riffs from Einstein’s old songs and other classics, they created an album that’s both a history lesson and a love letter to Israeli music. The critic Ben Shalev called it “a hip hop album soaked in sentiment,” meaning it as the highest compliment:
But befitting a dynamic duo, Cohen@Moshon have not one big love but two, the other being their city, Tel Aviv. You can hear its boulevards and its streets on every beat, its heat and its lust and its embrace of the pleasures of everyday life. If, like me, you consider Tel Aviv one of the world’s most magical places, this one’s for you: