It is time for the Hanukkah spirit, and everyone knows the world needs a little bit more light in this time of darkness and war. Those at the Nova Music Festival (who have spun shows for the people lost) are still managing to play music while everything is happening to help heal. I hope this diverse array of Hanukkah bangers can help people heal. Here are 18 songs: Eight candles on each menorah plus two shamash to light them. Eighteen means chai, and that means life.
Artikal Sound System, “Eight Days of Hannukah”
This is a holiday album that crushes a reggae Hanukkah vibe. If the whole world had a reggae twist, we’d probably get along better. Kudos to the group for singing about the “Eight Days of Hannukah” on an album of mostly Christmas songs. It usually is the eight nights that get all the shine — but don’t forget the daytime.
Matisyahu, “Happy Hanukkah”
There’s nothing like Matisyahu – a man who has been rocking sold-out Hanukkah shows for years – doing a show during Hanukkah. He recently played his song “One Day” for 300,000 people in Washington, D.C. at the March for Israel, and will be at Chelsea Music Hall on Dec. 12.
Nissim Black and Kosha Dillz, “The Hanukkah Song 2.0”
Remixing an old Adam Sandler song to make a new bop. The best part of this video is that it was recorded in Times Square on Thanksgiving and Hanukkah — Thanksgivukkah, which happened in 2013, occurs about once every gazillion years. The bop went so well that we remixed it last year with “The Hanukkah Song 3.0.”
The Maccabeats, “We’re Still Here”
Nothing fights the evils of antisemitism like a solid men’s a cappella group — and the Maccabeats have returned with another Hanukkah banger. Here is their anthem, “We’re Still Here.”
Six13, “Era-Lution of Taylor Swift (Chanukah’s Version)”
Taylor Swift has had a big year. I went to perform outside one of her concerts and nearly had to pay $100 for parking but was gifted entry thanks to my Wild ‘N Out fame. What would happen if she was covered by a Jewish a cappella group for Hanukkah? This. It features so many great rewrites — “they defiled the temple when they walked in” and “we don’t never ever ever use proper letters.” It’s so bad it’s good. I can’t stop watching it, and the outfit changes are just lovely.
Gal De Paz, “Bring Them Home”
This powerful artist is like the Amy Winehouse of Israel. Gal, lead singer of the Paz Band, has an angelic voice and cries out for women’s rights. The video places tape on her mouth while a chorus sings a powerful and anthemic “bring them home” chant. It is a solemn one. It is moving.
A$AP Rocky ft. Fat Tony, “Get Lit”
I know this isn’t the typical Hanukkah song, but maybe a Rihanukkah song? How can you not include this 2011 bop where A$AP Rocky gets lit alongside Houston’s best friend and positive rap creator, Fat Tony? “Get Lit” is how we do the candles.
Stephane Legar, “סטפן לגר – אתם בלב”
The French-Israel artist – who raps in French and Hebrew – shares his message over irresistible Afrobeats. You might be amazed by his mere existence, but you can tell by the video he is a star who deserves a spot on the menorah.
Remedy, “Never Again”
The original Jewish rapper of Wu-Tang Clan affiliation has recorded and produced many songs over the years, but the one that most resonates throughout the Jewish world is “Never Again.” One person wrote on his Instagram page, “This is the first song I listened to after October 7.” That reason deserves the shamash (lamplighter spot).
Ness & Stilla, “Harbu Darbu”
Echad shtime! Fifty years ago, Leonard Cohen came to Israel to sing on the front lines. Hanukkah is a story of Jews fighting back in a war. This is almost like a version of that in trap and drill form — a paralyzed country reacting to what life is like when everyone you know is at war. The reason? Trauma. Anger. Fear. Strength. Depression. The result? A No. 1 song in Israel and a reshare from Mia Khalifa.
Blippi and Meekah, “Snow Globe Surprise” / The Kiboomers, “I Have a Little Dreidel”
My friend Adam Swig of Value Culture showed me a children’s Hanukkah video I can’t get out of my psyche. These kids celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah in school – and this 60-minute video shows it all. The kids are having so much fun with “I Have a Little Dreidel.” Watch it above and smile.
Leonard Cohen, “Hallelujah”
This legend heard about the Yom Kippur War and managed to get to Israel to sing in 1973. It inspired me on my current trip where I recently went to perform for soldiers. There wasn’t much organization when he came to sing songs in Israel, but he felt in his heart that he should come and sing. In a time of chaos, this certainly hits the holiday spirit.
Adam Sandler, “The Chanukah Song”
In celebration of Adam’s film You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah, where his character’s 13-year-old daughter has a bat mitzvah, I figure he can take the 13th spot for this playlist. Adam Sandler’s song will find its way onto every Hanukkah playlist, just as socks are given as presents during gift-giving holidays. Enjoy it with your gin and tonica.
Too Short, “The Hanukkah Song”
We don’t need Kanye West when it comes to a Hanukkah rap song — we have Too Short. I met Too Short at a show and later on Wild ‘N Out. If anyone can pull off a hip-hop Hanukkah song, it’s him. “I’m frying latkes making a mess, time to make some gelt / I ate mom’s brisket, time to loosen my belt.” These are lyrics that make you feel empowered…to eat.
Haim, “Little of Your Love” / A-Wa, “Hana Mash Hu Al Yaman”
Not every song has to be an ode to the menorah on this playlist. Here we have two sets of three sisters, all with the surname Haim. One sings in English, the other in old Yemenite. They both wear great outfits and I don’t think many have discovered the Hanukkah miracle that there are now six singing Haim sisters. Watch the American ones, then travel over to the other side of the globe and watch A-WA. Shout out to my Yemenite Jewish homies celebrating Hanukkah.
Lola Marsh & RedBand, “Feel It Still”
I randomly saw Lola Marsh and tried to chase her down but then I went down a rabbit hole of her songs. I played a show with Portugal. The Man (one of my favorite bands) once and now that band is covered by Lola Marsh and RedBand. The worlds collide. “I’m a rebel just for kicks” certainly describes the Maccabees during Hanukkah.
Kosha Dillz, “Bring the Family Home”
I usually do a Hanukkah song every year but this one has been different. A war. A world of problems and sadness and anger. Instead of making my Hanukkah song for Dec. 7, I made this song on Oct. 7, so I will throw it here to light to the menorah.
Gabriella Cohen, “Dream Woman”
In times of conflict and war, they say women hold it down — and are certainly the most outspoken against hatred. Although that isn’t the topic here, this indie rock ballad has some important words.
I hope this is enough music to illuminate the darkness. If you didn’t find everything above, check out my long playlist of Jewish artists, rappers and bands. There are a “latke” songs to choose from.
Kosha Dillz is a Brooklyn-based rapper on MTV’s Wild ‘N Out and a touring performer who is also a standup comedian and filmmaker. He recently started a viral street interview series called “Bring the Family Home” on his Instagram and dropped a song called “Ceasefire.” He is currently in Israel looking for his father’s shoes that he left there and plans to bring them home. His holiday show is at TimeOut Market on Dec. 19 in Brooklyn.