Reggae Sumfest 2018

Rapper Shyne resurrects his career in Holy Land

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The rapper Shyne is singing a new tune: After serving eight years in prison for a nightclub shooting, the former protege of Sean "Diddy" Combs has converted to Orthodox Judaism, come to Jerusalem, and is devoting his days to the study of Torah while plotting a musical comeback.


His arrival in the Holy Land caps an unorthodox journey that began in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where he grew up and was shot at the age of 15, passed through the high-flying hip-hop universe, and landed him in a maximum security state prison before he was eventually deported to Belize - where his father happens to be prime minister.


"Being in Israel is just the exclamation point," he said Thursday. "This is the ultimate place to be who you are."


During a two-hour conversation on a hotel balcony overlooking the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, Shyne said his connection to Judaism goes back to his childhood - when he was still known as Jamaal Michael Barrow.
His mother claims Ethiopian Jewish ancestry, but the man who now calls himself Moshe Levi Ben-David says his roots go even deeper and that even as a boy in the streets, he was oddly drawn to Judaism and identified with its biblical heroes.


"I grew up in a war, constantly battling and the only person I could relate to was King David. Of course I love Michael Jordan, I love Mike Tyson, I love the typical people that people love, Muhammad Ali, but I had more of a connection with King David," he said.


Shyne, 32, has swapped his hip-hop attire of oversized basketball jerseys and diamond studded teeth with the traditional black suit and white knee-high stockings favored by the Belz Hassidic sect. He wears a black skullcap over his shaven head, but in a reminder of his former life, he still wears stylish black Ray Ban sunglasses.

Reggae Sumfest 2018

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Reggae Sumfest 2018