Vanilla Hip-Hop with Jewish Sprinkles: An Interview with J Rose
J Rose (Josh Rosenberg) is an upcoming musician who spent some time in YU. He’s also about to release his debut project to the world. As a music enthusiast, he enjoys the everlasting journey of trying to improve his sound and taking it in new directions. When he’s not opening for Nissim Black or working on his soon-to-be-released album “The Dilemma,” he can be found freestyling on his Instagram account of over 6,000 followers. In this exclusive interview with The Commentator, J Rose discusses his background, personal role models and why it’s so hard for an artist to pick a favorite song off their album.
Avi Lekowsky: Alright J Rose, give us an introduction to your newest project.
J Rose (Josh Rosenberg): The music is a blend of hip-hop, jazz, blues and really any genre that catches my eye. The most important thing, though, are the Jewish ideas and concepts thrown in. Not Jewish music, but Jewish ideas. I would describe it as vanilla hip-hop with Jewish sprinkles.
AL: What got you into music in the first place?
Rose: I was in Yeshivat Tiferet Jerusalem for three years, and towards the end of the second year— I think I was ditching shiur (laughs) — and I decided to write a song. I ended up showing it to my night seder mashgiach, who came up to check on me and see why I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I ended up showing the song to him, and he actually cried. I realized that I might have a talent that I want to work on. In my third year in Israel, I wrote about seven to eight more songs and actually recorded them while I was in the YU dorms. I pursued it because people kept on telling me it was awesome, and to me, it felt like music that mattered. I would write something and think, “I can’t believe I just wrote that.” It’s like it was coming from above or something.
AL: Who do you consider your musical influences, and on top of that, your personal role models?
Rose: In the rap world, I look up to J. Cole, Eminem, Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Anderson .Paak and Mac Miller. Outside the rap world: Frank Sinatra, Louie Armstrong, Billie Holiday, a bit of Bob Marley, Bill Withers, Lin Manuel Miranda and Joe Williams. In terms of my personal role models, I would have to say my biggest role model in life would be my father. I can’t think of any famous role models, but my personal rabbis are big influences in my life.
AL: Keeping in line with Torah UMadda, you mentioned your album has a lot of Jewish themes in it. How do you balance those Jewish themes and other themes you mention?
Rose: So, the name of the album is called “The Dilemma,” and a big part of the album is about striking that balance. The album goes back and forth from Jewish to non-Jewish themes, and the further you get into it, the more cohesive the themes come together. On one of the last songs on the album, “Best Day Ever,” talks a lot about Shabbos and features a Chassidish choir in the hook, but the verses are over a dance beat with a heavy guitar, bass and horns. It’s kind of a mix of the two genres and helps signify the balance between two worlds and finding a balance in life.
AL: Sounds like the album is conveying a cohesive story more than just tracks thrown together.
Rose: Yeah, absolutely. There are 14 tracks with an intro and outro, and I like to call it an audio movie. You only get the full experience by listening to the whole thing.
AL: If you could pick any activity to do while playing this project, what would it be?
Rose: For sure, driving. I love listening to music in the car while driving, or any types of traveling. When you don’t have music when you’re on the subway, it could be the worst thing ever, but music can change that around and make it the best thing ever. Whatever you see around you while traveling and listening to a song becomes part of the audio movie you’re experiencing.
AL: Any interesting stories while working on the project?
Rose: There’s a song on the album called “Perfect Game.” It talks about striking a balance between the Jewish and secular worlds, and I decided to write a hook to it. I don’t really have a good singing voice, so I found this guy on Instagram who was a good singer — literally a random guy. After singing the parts talking about Jewish themes, the guy tells me he’s also Jewish. Not only that, he went to the same yeshiva I did about a decade before! We still keep in touch and talk about yeshiva. Think about how many users are on Instagram and how crazy the odds are to meet up with someone like that!
AL: Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Rose: That’s tough, like asking a parent to choose their favorite child. Each one is so different and depends on the mood, so I switch back and forth a lot. Right now, I would say “Best Day Ever” since I just finished it. I got a bass player who works with Ziggy Marley and Lauryn Hill, the Chassidish choir, a beatmaker from Tel Aviv, a guitar player … I felt like I was combining all these different genres, and it took a lot of time to make. If you want to create something really unique and authentic, you have to put in the time and work.
AL: Anything else you want to plug?
Rose: My album “The Dilemma” is coming out Feb. 26 on pretty much every music platform: Apple Music, SoundCloud, Spotify, Tidal, I’m there. I can’t wait to show the world what I’ve been working on!
AL: Thanks for sitting down with us!
In the Modern Orthodox world, people pragmatically choose their careers. Accountants, lawyers, and doctors are all stable Jewish careers. However, beyond pragmatism, it is important to realize how important it is to follow your interests and dreams. Whether it be as a career or as a side hobby, J Rose teaches us to never abandon that.
“The Dilemma” comes out Feb. 26 and features the already released singles “No One Got it Better,” “Rose Colored Glasses” and “The Flow.” Check out his Instagram @thejrose26 for more!
Photo Caption: “The Dilemma”
Photo Credits: @creating_movement_ on Instagram/ J Rose