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Shimoni, Kobi (1979–)

Shimoni, Kobi
(1979–)

Known by his stage name Subliminal, Shimoni is a hiphop artist and top-selling recording artist in Israel.

PERSONAL HISTORY

Subliminal was born Ya'akov "Kobi" Shimoni on November 13, 1979, in Tel Aviv, Israel. His parents were immigrant Jews from Islamic countries: His mother was from Mashhad, Iran, and his father came from Tunisia. Shimoni began performing at age twelve, and by age fifteen had met his musical collaborator, Yoav Eliasi (who became known as The Shadow). After a visit to a recording studio in Los Angeles, Shimoni decided to try his luck with hiphop music in Israel. Together, Subliminal and The Shadow began performing hip-hop music in Israeli clubs in 1995, mimicking American hip-hop artists both in style and dress (wearing baggy pants and gold chains). In 1997, Shimoni helped produce a project titled "Yisra'elim Atzbanim, Ahad Ahad" ("Stressed-Out Israelis, Every One"), his first venture into the recording business in Israel.

After his obligatory army service, Shimoni began devoting himself full-time to music. He released his first album in 2001, ha-Or me'Tzion (Light from Zion). It was a big hit, and soon was followed by ha-Or ve ha-Tzal (The Light and the Shadow; a reference to Eliasi) in 2002. Rapping in Hebrew, Arabic, French, and English, Shimoni went on to become extremely popular in Israel. He issued the album TACT All Stars with his collaborators in TACT (Tel Aviv City Team) Records in 2004. His most recent solo album was Bediuk Kshe'Kheshavtem she'ha-Kol Nigmar (Just When You Thought it was Over) in 2006, and his most recent single was "Adon Olam Ad Matai?" ("God Almighty, When Will it End?"), released in 2007.

INFLUENCES AND CONTRIBUTIONS

One of Shimoni's defining characteristics has been his strongly nationalistic lyrics. When the violence of second Palestinian Intifada broke out in 2000, Shimoni's music began reflecting the frustration he and other Israelis felt toward the Palestinians. Citing his parents' own persecution as Jews living among Muslims, Shimoni sometimes responds to Palestinian critics of Israel in blunt fashion. In a 2005 interview, he noted:

"When we talk politics with Arabs in Israel, they say, 'My grandfather used to live in Tel Aviv, and now it's owned by Jewish people—we want to come back.' I respond, 'My parents came from Iran and Tunisia, but nobody is going to give our property back to us. It's all been confiscated … We have this little sandbox we call Israel. We give our hearts and lives to make it a proud country. Every one serves in the Israeli Defense Force in order for Israel to survive. You have half of the globe. What the f**k do you want from us? Go live in Saudi Arabia"' (Khazzoom 2005).

A line from his hit song "Divide and Conquer" says, "Dear God, I wish you could come down, because I'm being persecuted. My enemies are united. They want to destroy me. We're nurturing and arming those who hate us. Enough!"

BIOGRAPHICAL HIGHLIGHTS

Name: Kobi Shimoni (Subliminal)

Birth: 13 November 1979, Tel Aviv, Israel

Nationality: Israeli

PERSONAL CHRONOLOGY:

  • 1995: Begins performing hip-hop
  • 1997: Helps produce "Yisra'elim Atzbanim, Ahad Ahad" ("Stressed-Out Israelis, Every One")
  • 2001: Releases first album, ha-Or me'Tzion (Light from Zion)
  • 2002: Releases album ha-Or ve ha-Tzal (The Light and the Shadow)
  • 2004: Releases album TACT All Stars
  • 2006: Releases album Bediuk Kshe'Kheshavtem she'ha-Kol Nigmar (Just When You Thought it was Over)

CONTEMPORARIES

Tamer Nafar (1979–; also Tamir al-Nafar) is a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel who was born on 6 June 1979 in Lod (Arabic: al-Lidd), Israel. His family originally was from Jaffa, but was dislocated during the 1948 War. In 1999, Nafar formed the hip-hop group DAM along with his brother, Suhell Nafar, and with Mahmud Jreri. The music of DAM, which means both blood in Arabic (and Hebrew) as well as Da Arabic MCs, combines traditional Arabic rhythms and instruments with a hip-hop beat and often political lyrics. In 1998, DAM issued its first song "Stop Selling Drugs," a reference to Nafar's drug-infested hometown of Lod, followed in 2001 by "Who's the Terrorist?" In the song, DAM sings:

You grew up in indulgence, / We grew up in poverty. / You grew up in spacious homes, / We grew up in burrows. / And he, who lost his way, / You turned into a criminal. / Then you, the terrorist, have / The nerve to call me a terrorist?

"Who's the Terrorist" has been downloaded from the Internet over one million times, and an issue of Rolling Stone magazine in France featured a free CD copy of it. In November 2006, DAM released its first album, Dedication. Although DAM sings mostly in Arabic and English, the group's 2004 song "Born Here" was in both Arabic and Hebrew, in order to appeal to Israeli Jews as well as to Palestinians. DAM has performed in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Germany, Italy, Britain, and the United States.

One of Shimoni's impacts has been to help popularize hip-hop music in Israel. Another major contribution was when he and Eliasi formed TACT Records, which has gone on to become Israel's biggest record label. He even has his own line of clothing. Shimoni also helped discover the Israeli-born Palestinian hip-hop artist Tamer Nafar, who went on to form the group DAM. Eventually, however, the political tensions generated in the heated atmosphere of the Palestinian-Israeli violence of the Intifada led to their estrangement. Their relationship and its demise was documented in the 2003 film Arotzim shel Za'am (Channels of Rage), directed by Israeli filmmaker Anat Halachmi.

THE WORLD'S PERSPECTIVE

Subliminal and his collaborators at TACT largely are an Israeli phenomenon, although they have toured elsewhere, including France, Canada, and the United States, and opened for American rapper 50 Cent during his concert in Israel. But they have become one of the biggest selling—if not the biggest selling—musical acts in Israeli history.

LEGACY

Although it is much too early to discuss Shimoni's ultimate legacy, his impact on Israeli music and the Israeli music industry already has been profound.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

"Hip Hop in the Holy Land." British Broadcasting Corporation. Available from http://www.bbc.co.uk/.

Khazzoom, Loolwa. "Israeli Rapper Takes U.S.: Subliminal Kicks Off Tour, Kicks Up Controversy." Rolling Stone, March 2, 2005. Available from http://www.rollingstone.com/.

Khazzoom, Loolwa. "Israeli Rappers Prove Hip-Hop Will Translate to Any Language." Boston Globe, January 4, 2004. Available from http://www.boston.com/.

TACT Records website. Available from http://tact-records.com/.

                                        Michael R. Fischbach

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