Orthodox Jewish Rapper Meets His Messiah


Rebekah Kolber

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Volume 16 Number 3
June/July 2006

A Shekel for your thoughts?
Aviad Cohen, the former '50 Shekel', speaks to the Times about life and his new CD
by Rebekah Kolber

Aviad Cohen is releasing a new CD this summer—“Hooked on the Truth”—that was inspired by the triumphs and travails he experienced after his radical change from Orthodox Jewish rapper to Messianic believer.

Cohen has shed the “50 Shekel” moniker that brought him fame and respect from the Jewish community and created his own independent record label called Hebrew Homie Records. The new CD includes a variety of styles, from electronica, dance and trance-style, to pop, rock and hip hop. In several interludes, classical music plays in the background while Cohen recites the Word.

Among the tunes is an electronica dance remake of Steve McConnell’s Messianic praise song “We Delight in Your Shabbat.”

McConnell was “delighted” by the remake, says Cohen, who produced it after he came out as a believer and experienced all the rejection that comes with making that decision.

“I had no home of my own at that time,” he said. “God linked me up with a kind family who are believers. They gave me a place to rest my head, fed me and allowed me to make my music in their home way up in the mountains of Agoura, California.”

He recalls staying up late into Shabbat producing the remake. “You should have seen the view of the mountain greenery as the sun came up later that morning. I thought to myself, ‘Wow. God made all of this. He’s amazing.’ I will never forget the experience.”

Cohen is excited about the new sounds coming from Messianic musicians these days. “When most people think of Messianic or Christian music, they think: guitar, bass, piano, drums, tambourine. I didn’t have any of that,” he said. “Instead, I had an Apple Powerbook, Apple’s Garage-band software, a two-octave M-Audio MIDI keyboard controller, a mic and headphones.”

Cohen, a native of Brooklyn, said he was raised on 80’s synth pop, listened to a lot of electronica/dance and trance music and loved to compose and program dance tracks. “I thought, ‘Why not make some bass-kickin’, synth-ravin’, God-glorifying tracks?

“It’s pretty rare to find someone making jumpin’ Jesus electronica dance music tracks and it’s even more rare when that person is a Jew.” He hopes music by young believers will create new trends in Christian and Messianic music.

Testimonial track

The title track on the album, “Hooked on Truth,” is described by Cohen as “an emotional hip hop-based, orchestral-driven track that tells of my coming to faith.” It opens with a skit about an actual conversation between a Jews for Judaism anti-missionary and Cohen at a New York kosher restaurant where they debated the meaning of Isaiah 53.

“You hear us spieling, the people in the background, the sounds of the plates, the subway,” says Cohen. “It sounds like you are right there sitting in the restaurant. If you listen with headphones on, the rabbi is heard on the left ear and I’m talking on the right ear. It’s like you are right in the middle of the conversation. It’s so real …this really happened.”

The talents of several other Messianics are included in the album. The “We Delight in Your Shabbat” remake includes Belinda Benko doing female backing vocals, Scott Holtz from Rivers in the Desert International’s “Arise” music CD is heard blowing the shofar and a Israeli Jewish believer named Haya is heard reciting the Lord’s Prayer during one of the album’s interludes.

Cohen, who attended yeshiva and took the mainstream Jewish community by storm as a rapper before coming to faith more than two years ago, says he’s still “getting over the fact that Jesus is the true Jew Messiah” and doesn’t yet know what his future holds. But he is confident that “it’s all in God’s hands.” Producing more albums may very well be on his plate, says Cohen, as Messianic music greats such as Joel Chernoff, Ted Pearce and Marty Goetz have all encouraged him to continue producing to fill the need for new music that reaches out to Messianic youth.

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This article appeared in the Messianic Times newspaper and on their web site,  www.messianictimes.com.

Reprinted by permission of Leo Hohmann, Senior Editor. Many thanks, Leo.