With the imminent release of the 2 Live Crew's Sports Weekend and the controversy it no doubt will ignite, it's only fitting that the men who put rap on the map and blazed the trail that has yielded so much lucre for Luke are generating some controversy of their own. No, we're not talking about Grandmaster Flash or the Sugar Hill Gang. We're talking about the true pioneers, the Lewis and Clark of rap, the masters of Hebrew hip-hop and new jack kvetch, Miami's own MC Moisha and his Chassidic homeboy, Easy Irving, better known as 2 Live Jews.
Moisha and Irving have incurred the wrath of fellow rap superstar MC Hammer, who was not amused by 2 Live Jews' less-than-worshipful treatment of his incredibly innovative and wildly original megahit, "U Can't Touch This." Seems the octogenarian wags had the audacity to sample Hammer's tune on their cut "Havana Gila," from the new album, Fiddling with Tradition. While Moisha and Irving had tongues firmly planted in cheeks, Hammer felt dissed and so sicced a squad of lawyer suckers on the slammin' senior citizens.
The 2 Live Jews' response was to fire off a letter to Hammer's minions, thanking the pelvis-popping Pepsi pusher for repopularizing baggy pants, but warning him not to attempt to ride their coattails. "Now that we have made it big," the letter reads, "everyone is trying to jump on the bandwagon.... We don't begrudge MC Hammer one single iota of his success, but please don't try to gain popularity from our success as the real new-style rappers." While Hammer has yet to formally respond, one of Moisha and Irving's flacks at Kosher Records claims that the miffed MC has offered to drop his lawsuit "if 2 Live Jews will invite him down for a nice kosher supper and an evening of Chassidic dancing."
Truth be told, the dope duo is probably grateful for Mr. Hammer's attention, however misguided. They learned an important lesson about the publicity value of controversy from fellow Miamian Luther Campbell and his infamous Crew, to whom the Jews are often compared and deeply indebted. Just as the obscenity busts and First Amendment flap catapulted Luke and company into the national consciousness and filled their coffers, so too did it kick-start the careers of rap's silver foxes.
Originally the pair bristled at any hint of a connection between their popularity and 2 Live Crew's notoriety. Said Easy Irving at the time, "It's completely coincidental. When we made the record [As Kosher as They Wanna Be], we never even heard of those guys. Moisha and I only listen to talk radio." Nowadays, however, the boys are taking a slightly more conciliatory tack. "Easy Irving and MC Moisha did what they had to do to get noticed," says Joe Stone, the aforementioned record-label lackey. "Now they can do what they want."
Out of that hard-won creative freedom comes the eagerly awaited follow-up album. Aged Mutant Ninja Myrtle is back, as are the sojourns to Wolfie's and the fixed-income blues. MC Moisha and Easy Irving are still fearlessly wrestling with the great issues of our time, such as whether to risk the brisket. Such uncompromising candor and repeated references to living on the edge are not for the faint of heart. As Moisha (or is it Irving?) sings so incisively in "If I Were a Rich Man": ®MDNM¯"If I was a rich man/Dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee dee/I'd go to a restaurant that didn't have an early bird/And, Oy! How I would eat!"
Potent stuff. The album is also riddled with sexually explicit lyrics, as in this verse from "Matchmaker": "Myrtle, oh, Myrtle/Don't send me a shiksa/I need a beauty/For my nephew's bar mitzvah."
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Somehow the rappin' rabbi and his cohort from the mean fields of the kibbutz managed to sneak that one by the censors. The 2 Live Jews' own label reportedly wanted to affix warning stickers to Fiddling, but Moisha and Irving would have none of it. As the Easy dude so righteously puts it, "It's a damn shame when the artistic are banned by the autistic."
As if the brouhahas over controversial lyrics, cashing in on the 2 Live Crew, and the MC Hammer lawsuit weren't enough to dampen the matzoh, 2 Live Jews also have been forced to contend with the preposterous allegation that MC Moisha and Easy Irving do not actually exist, but are the creations of Joe Stone and local comedian/impressionist Eric Lambert. Skeptics point out that Stone and Lambert are never seen publicly when Moisha and Irving are in town. They point to Stone's background in the music biz (he had a minor hit in the mid-Eighties with a novelty song called "Ronnie's Rap," which lampooned the former Prez, and is currently hard at work on a series of musical projects under the auspices of Hot Productions, as well as performing regularly with the Improvisation Foundation, an up-and-coming local comedy troupe). They mention Lambert's experience in comedy (a three-year hitch as host at Coconuts Comedy Club in the Dadeland Marriott, and opening spots for Jay Leno, Elaine Boozler, and Morey Amsterdam). All this would have prepared the two for such an elaborate masquerade. Further fanning the flames of speculation is the lower profile Moisha and Irving have taken as the wrangling over the 2 Live Crew cools and the individual careers of Stone and Lambert heat up.
Once darlings of the Dr. Demento set, the Jews now find that demand for personal appearances has slowed. The new album is doing reasonably well (according to Stone), but hasn't exactly taken the charts by storm. Fiddling with Tradition doesn't have the topical edge that As Kosher as They Wanna Be did, nor does it boast a definitive single like the first album's razor-sharp "Me So Horny" parody ("Oy! It's So Humid!"). MC Moisha and Easy Irving have been conspicuously absent from the Donahue/Oprah/Geraldo circuit. A little controversy couldn't hurt right now, something to let the public know the cagey duo hasn't just schlepped off into the sunset.
Hammer time, anyone?