Rap parody plays into tired Jewish stereotypes

What’s up with Jews and black culture?

The relationship goes back for a century at least, with our brethren — master merchants — exploiting the products of black entertainment, usually at the expense of black artists. Jazz, vaudeville, film, literature, R&B; pick your art form.

It’s painful to admit, but Jews have an intimate and often creepy relationship with black art.

This is all by way of saying that the Jewish hip-hop group Chutzpah is boring at best and painfully annoying/offensive at worst.

Not that Jewish hip-hop is inherently bad: Take the Beastie Boys. It wasn’t until their recent album “To the Five Boroughs” that the group included explicitly Jewish references in their music. But from the beginning, the group displayed implicitly Jewish qualities, carrying on like bar mitzvah-age wise-asses hopped up on Pepsi and mandelbrot. The Beasties have never hidden their relationship to blackness, while at the same time using samples that comment on their whiteness.

One could build a whole argument along these lines linking Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Allen Ginsberg and so on to their individual cultural moments. In contrast to the thoughtful explorations of blackness, whiteness and Jewish culture negotiated by these artists in their prime, Chutzpah stands out in its sub-par effort.

A sort of parody of hip-hop using Jewish themes, Chutzpah is a “super group” put together by movie industry insiders who have used their influence to get actor George Segal to play “Dr. Dreck,” who claims rap pioneer Dr. Dre stole his name from him. The songs on the self-titled album are half parody and half sincere in a banal, Judeophilic sort of way.

The songs go for the absolute simplest topics: Jewish superheroes, how great Chanukah is, old Jewish men with their cheap stereotypes and Jewish neuroses. They play like the bad jokes Rupert Pupkin tells in Martin Scorsese’s “The King of Comedy.”

Ever notice how the worst art, especially failed parodies, often unintentionally betray serious and creepy anxieties? (Two nearly mythic examples are Michael Jackson’s “Moonwalker” and Siegfried and Roy’s “The Magic Box.”) This album can be read in a similarly odd vein. Glossy production values reveal horribly clichéd ideas of rap beats and samples.

Chutzpah’s lazy ideas executed in such a glossy, joyless fashion turn the album into a kind of nightmare of Hollywood Jewish dominance and racial condescension.

Perhaps one should never take humor this seriously. But when a work plays into an odious stereotype, it’s worth a comment. And Chutzpah’s “chutzpah” is like gefilte fish that’s been left to sit in the sun.

Chutzpah’s self-titled album is available online and at Judaica and record stores.