Rotem was born in Israel and raised on a kibbutz, Ein HaHoresh. He served for three years in the Israel Defense Forces. His political views have been described as left wing, although he says, "I try to look at things from the human side and not so much the political side."
He grew up listening to and playing rock and blues music, and was first exposed to hip hop in the late-80s. In 1991-92 he lived in England, where he first heard Ice Cube's Death Certificate, which he says is the record that made him “in awe of this whole hip hop thing.” He took the name Sagol 59 ("Purple 59") from his kibbutz laundry tag identification code.
In 2000, Sagol 59 released The Blue Period, the first album by a solo hip hop artist in Israel. His first four albums and an EP were released in Israel, and are now available in the US online. On each album, he re-recorded a classic hip hop track in an Israeli version. On 2006's Hip Hop Einstein, for instance, he re-did "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, with new lyrics to reflect the Israeli reality. In 2008, Sagol was signed to JDub Records, releasing Make Room, his first American project. Two years later, the label put out a digital album consisting of remixes, b-sides, rare and unreleased tracks from the first decade of Sagol's career.
Sagol went on the JDub 5th Anniversary tour (in Brooklyn, Denver, Cleveland and Los Angeles) in 2008, and performed at the 2010 CMJ Music Marathon in New York.
2011 saw the release of Another Passenger, an album on which Sagol returned to his blues-rock-folk roots. Another Passenger, produced by Amir Estlein, features Sagol singing and playing guitar, alongside notable Israeli musicians such as Geva Alon, Rona Keinan, Dan Toren, Jazz saxophonist Albert Begger, members of Red Band and poet Ronnie Someck. In the Spring of 2012, Sagol was featured on Jenerous Skillz, a digitally released global Jewish Hip Hop album, that he also executive produced. In August 2012, Sagol released the track "Westerns," a collaboration with New York rapper Kool G Rap.
Sagol collaborated with Israeli-American folk singer Ami Yares on the 2015 album The Promised Land: The Grateful Dead / Jerry Garcia Hebrew Project, featuring Hebrew language covers of songs by The Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia. Sagol conceived of the project in 2013, and spent approximately 18 months translating the lyrics from English into Hebrew. It is the first ever album of Hebrew versions of Grateful Dead songs. In December 2015, Sagol and Yares embarked on a U.S tour of the project, which included shows in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Atlanta, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York. In March 2017, Sagol embarked on a U.S tour, which included performances at the Atlanta Jewish Music Festival, New York City's Pinks, The Deanery in Brooklyn and Garcia's at The Capitol Theatre (Port Chester, New York).
Fellow Israelis Sagol and Sha’anan Streett of Hadag Nahash created controversy in 2001 by teaming up with Palestinian rapper Tamer Nafar (aka TN, of the group DAM) on "Summit Meeting," which was the first ever Jewish-Arab hip hop collaboration. Released during the Second Intifada, the song called on leaders of both nations to resume peace talks. Since then, Sagol has been involved in endeavors designed to promote peace and unity between Jews and Muslims, appearing on mixed bills such as 2004's JDub Unity Sessions in Brooklyn with Matisyahu and TN; 2006's Rap for Justice in Amsterdam with DAM and Ramallah Underground; the Hip Hop Sulha in New York and San Francisco, described as an Israeli and Palestinian hip hop showcase; frequently collaborating with Arab-Israeli rapper Saz; and, along with Daniel Sieradski (aka Mobius), organizing Corner Prophets, a cultural initiative encouraging Israelis and Palestinians to find common ground through art and music.
His track "Big Ben" was included on Celebrate Hip Hop: Jewish Artists from Around the World, a 2005 compilation also featuring cuts from RZA and Blood of Abraham. "Big Ben" eulogizes a close friend and music partner who was killed in the 2002 bombing of the Hebrew University cafeteria in Jerusalem.
In 2007, Subliminal released a Holocaust memorial song and video, "Adon Olam, Ad Matai" ("God Almighty, Until When?"). In response, Sagol recorded "Shoah Business," calling Subliminal out for what Sagol perceived as lyrics exploiting the Holocaust.
In 2011, along with seven other Israeli MCs of varying ancestry, Sagol recorded "List of Demands," in support of demonstrations taking place in Israel calling for equal rights among citizens. The following year, the song was included on the mixtape Internationally Known Vol. 2.
In September 2014, Sagol appeared as a featured guest artist at the MasterPeace concert held at Amsterdam's Ziggo Dome, along with Palestinian rapper Saz. Sagol and Saz performed the newly recorded song "From The Beginning" at the concert.
Sagol was interviewed for the 2005 documentary I Know I'm Not Alone, directed by Michael Franti of Spearhead. The film, which premiered at the Slamdance Film Festival, is about music in Middle Eastern occupied territories. Sagol also appears in Joshua Atesh Litle's 2010 documentary The Furious Force of Rhymes, about the effect of hip hop worldwide, featuring his 2008 song "Jerusalem."
Jewlicious says Sagol's "raps are earthy, poetic, rough and real." MTV Iggy says he has "gained a legendary reputation in and out of his country" and "his raps are hot." In a KlezmerShack.com review of the compilation Celebrate Hip Hop, on which Sagol appears, Sagol's exploration of social corruption and religious conflict is singled out as being "especially revealing." In a lengthy feature about his 2017 U.S tour, Tablet magazine called Sagol "One of Israel’s pioneering hip-hop artists".The Blue Period (2000, Fact Records)
Where Did We Go Wrong (2002, Fact Records)
The Two Sides of Purple 59 (2003, NMC Records)
Hip Hop Einstein (2006, NMC Records)
Make Room (2008, JDub Records)
Remixed 2000-2010 (2010, JDub Records)
Another Passenger (2011, Lev Group Media / 8th Note Records)
Leave Something For The Guests (2015, Official mixtape / Bandcamp)
The Promised Land: The Grateful Dead / Jerry Garcia Hebrew Project - with Ami Yares (2015)
Reason to Die (2003, 9 Records)
Family Business (2015, Bandcamp) - With Shiroto
A Stranger Song: A Hebrew Tribute to Leonard Cohen (2004, Blind Janitor) – "Chelsea Hotel No. 2"
Celebrate Hip Hop: Jewish Artists from Around the World (2006, Craig N Co) – "Big Ben"
Rooftop Roots III (2007, JDub Records) – "Lech Kadima" feat. Roy
Rooftop Roots IV (2008, JDub Records) – "Jerusalem" feat. Sha’anan Streett and Rebel Sun
JDub Presents Jewltide (2008, JDub Records) – "Leeches (DJ Spooky Remix)" and "Till the Fat Lady Dances" feat. Noa Faran
Internationally Known Vol. 2 (2012, Nomadic Wax) – "List of Demands"
Jenerous Skillz (2012, Uneek Media / Corner Prophets) - "The Tunez" feat. Controverse, Lefty, Shiroto, Stepper & Benyomen; "Work With DAT" feat. Stepper, Lefty & De Cipher; "J-Funk" feat. Controverse, Benyomen, MC Theory, Mic G & Big J; "Strike Down Upon Thee" feat. OBD, Controverse & MC Theory
"Fight Rebel Sun" - Coolooloosh feat. Sagol 59, Quami, Sha'anan Streett, Kaolina and Kashi – from Coolooloosh (2007, Coolooloosh)
"Microphone Patuach" – Peled & Ortega feat. Extra G, Ori Shochat and Sagol 59 – from Special Delivery (2010, High Fiber Productions)
"Lo Bai'm Betov" – Produx feat. Sagol 59 – from Resurrection of the Dead (2010, Madman)
"Intro" and "My Hood" – Nouveau Depart feat. Sagol 59 – from Nouveau Depart (2013, Baruch & Jo)
Blue White Collar Criminal (2004, dir. Noam Kaplan)
I Know I'm Not Alone (2005, dir. Michael Franti)
Holy Land Hardball (2010, dir. Brett Rapkin and Eric Kesten) – music only
The Furious Force of Rhymes (2010, dir. Joshua Atesh Litle)
Be A Nelson - Music Above Fighting (2015, dir. Remko Geursen)