Volume 16 Number 3
Shekel for your thoughts?
Aviad Cohen, the former '50 Shekel', speaks to the Times about life and his new
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
“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,
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’,
“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.
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
Reprinted by permission of Leo Hohmann, Senior Editor. Many thanks, Leo.