Life & Culture

How Jewish is Drake? Uncovering rapper Aubrey Graham's Hebrew heritage

Drake may be the most famous rapper in the world, but how Jewish is he?



Canadian Aubrey 'Drake' Graham, 36. As Drake he has single-handedly made rapping Jews almost cool with his success even surpassing The Beastie Boys. One of the world’s biggest music stars, he has sold more than 170million records, and won five Grammys and two Brit Awards. Loud and proud of his Jewish roots he has made a rap video about his ‘re-barmitzvah’,Instagrammed photographs of his seder table and sung multiple songs about his mother.


Born on October 24 1986, his mother is Sandra ‘Sandi’ Graham, a Canadian Ashkenazi Jew and his father is African American drummer Dennis Graham.

The pair met at a Jerry Lee Lewis concert. Drake was their only child and their marriage was short-lived – they divorced when Drake was just five.

‘I had to become a man very quickly and be the backbone for a woman who I love with all my heart, my mother,’ he later recalled.

Dennis moved to America where he ended up going to prison twice and Drake was mainly brought up by his mother who struggled financially while suffering from osteoporosis and poor mental health. During his early life, he was brought up on Weston Road in Toronto which he claims was, ‘not the nicest area in the world’.

He added: ‘Everybody thinks I went to some private school and my family was rich. Maybe it’s my fault – maybe I haven’t talked enough about it, but I didn’t grow up happy. I wasn’t in a happy home. My mother was very sick. We were very poor, like broke.’

Worried about bad influences in the neighbourhood, Sandi and Drake moved to the more upmarket neighbourhood of Forest Hill when he was a teenager where they had a flat in a split house.

He also had a Saturday job at his maternal grandfather Reuben Sher’s furniture factory.

Drake has claimed his father was often absent from his life as he was growing up – something Dennis disputes. The rapper says of his dad: ‘My father is an incredible man – charming, talented and stylish – and I’m sort of living the dream he had for himself. But his actions served as that reverse role model for me. There are a lot of things that I don’t ever want to do. I don’t want to miss yeas of my child’s life. I don’t want to put a woman on a roller-coaster ride.’


Sandi brought him up as Jewish and he went to Jewish Day School followed by a comprehensive with many Jewish children but the rapper has claimed it "was a struggle" to be a black Jewish boy and he later recalled being bullied.

"I went to a school where nobody understood what it was like to be black and Jewish," he later said. "When kids are young it’s hard for them to understand the make-up of religion and race. I didn’t have the worst time, but I did have a hard time. I was always the last kid to get the invite to the party."

He had his bar mitzvah age 13, celebrating in a ‘nice Italian restaurant’ and his life changed aged 15 when he was cast on Canadian teen TV drama Degrassi: The Next Generation before it changed again when he started having success as a rapper.

What Jewish things does he say and do?

He wears a diamond-studded Chai and has had several very public ‘re bar mitzvahs’.

His 2011 music video for HYFR is centred around one of them with the opening credits saying: ‘On October 24 2011 Aubrey ‘Drake’ Graham chose to get re-barmitzvah’d as a re-commitment to the Jewish religion.’ The video features Drake in a Miami shul complete with a kippah, tallit and reading from the Torah with his rapper friends forming part of the congregation followed by an almighty party with him being held up on a chair and eating bagels.

He later said: ‘I’m a proud young Jewish boy. When I had a bar mitzvah back in the day, my mom didn’t really have the much money. I told myself that if I ever got rich, I would throw myself a re-bar mitzvah. That’s the concept of the video.’

Six years later, when he turned 31, his birthday party was themed ‘Aubrey’s re-bar mitzvah’ and photos he posted from it featured a photo board from his original bar mitzvah. He also recreated his bar mitzvah when he hosted Saturday Night Live which featured him rapping: ‘I’m black and Jewish/ it’s a mitzvah’ over a klezmer clarinet.

He regularly features photographs on his Instagram page of his family celebrating Jewish festivals and last year his video for his song Falling Back featured him being married under a chuppah by real life Toronto rabbi Ari Sitnik – to 23 different women with his real-life mother looking on.

In real life, he had an on-off relationship with Rihanna from 2009-2016 and he has a five-year-old son, Adonis, with French porn star turned artist Sophie Brussaux after a brief romance.  

Verdict: Drake is a proud Jewish boy, and one we can be proud of.

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