The Shmooze

Shyne On: Rapper Shyne Talks About His Prison Stint and Becoming a Hasidic Jew

By Nathan Jeffay

  • Print
  • Share Share

Jewish-born hip hop star Shyne tells the Forward that he spent his nine-year prison stint “wrapping tefillin.” Could he soon be rapping about tefillin? Freed from U.S. detention 15 months ago for injuring three people when he opened fire in a Manhattan nightclub in 1999, the 34-year-old Belize native now resides in Jerusalem as Moses Michael Levi and spends 12 hours a day studying religion with Hasidim. While he made a name for himself rapping about scantily clad women in the song “Bad Boyz” and for his professional relationship to Sean Combs (Combs and then-girlfriend Jennifer Lopez were at the club the night of the shooting), today his adherence to Jewish modesty laws means he doesn’t even shake women’s hands.

Shyne is planning a world tour to coincide with the release of two albums, “Messiah” and “Gangland,” on April 5. He spoke with the Forward about his views on Judaism, rap music and helping Israel.

You have been strictly observant for seven years, but your move toward Orthodox practice was triggered earlier - before you went to prison when you were worried that your first album, “Shyne,” might get shelved. Tell us about that.

I made a deal. I said, I’m going to do whatever I need to do to make sure this album comes out… So you know what, you know how much I love women, I’m going to be shomer bris [refrain from all sexual activity that transgresses Orthodox law] until this record comes out. The record didn’t come out until the year later but that was part of the deal.

How do you view Judaism today?

Where I’m holding today is pragmatic. Everything I’ve done on a basic level of Judaism got me so far - wouldn’t it make sense to do even more because I want more?

You’re wearing Hasidic garb now, and you indicated that you may appear on stage dressed like this. Do you feel that the music scene will still embrace you?

There’s a girl by the name of Lady Gaga and she’s the number one pop artist in the world and she wears outfits that are stitched together with meat… So if millions of people don’t have a problem with someone wearing meat as an outfit, how could you imagine they would have a problem with a guy like me who stands for everything that any true man stands for, who has walked through a fire, who is honorable and whose life is based on integrity?

You currently serve as a goodwill ambassador for Belize. How would you like to help Israel?

I’m not so conceited as to think that I have any kind of solution or I’m the lifesaver. I’m just a person who has a voice and has an audience, and however I can use that as a tool to bring to light the great things about this country, I will.

You have grown very close to the Belz Hasidic sect. How do your religious mentors relate to your music?

There’s no irreconcilable difference between rap music and the Belz. I’m a young Jew who wants to be close to Hashem, that’s all that matters… As long as I want to learn and there’s nothing blasphemous about my music, at this point that’s all they are concerned about.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Western Wall, Shyne, Shabbat, Sean Combs, Puff Daddy, Jail, Orthodox

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The rose petals have settled, and Andi has made her (Jewish?) choice. We look back on the #Bachelorette finale:
  • "Despite the great pain and sadness surrounding a captured soldier, this should not shape the face of this particular conflict – not in making concessions and not in negotiations, not in sobering assessments of this operation’s achievements or the need to either retreat or move forward." Do you agree?
  • Why genocide is always wrong, period. And the fact that some are talking about it shows just how much damage the war in Gaza has already done.
  • Construction workers found a 75-year-old deli sign behind a closing Harlem bodega earlier this month. Should it be preserved?
  • "The painful irony in Israel’s current dilemma is that it has been here before." Read J.J. Goldberg's latest analysis of the conflict:
  • Law professor Dan Markel waited a shocking 19 minutes for an ambulance as he lay dying after being ambushed in his driveway. Read the stunning 911 transcript as neighbor pleaded for help.
  • Happy birthday to the Boy Who Lived! July 31 marks the day that Harry Potter — and his creator, J.K. Rowling — first entered the world. Harry is a loyal Gryffindorian, a matchless wizard, a native Parseltongue speaker, and…a Jew?
  • "Orwell would side with Israel for building a flourishing democracy, rather than Hamas, which imposed a floundering dictatorship. He would applaud the IDF, which warns civilians before bombing them in a justified war, not Hamas terrorists who cower behind their own civilians, target neighboring civilians, and planned to swarm civilian settlements on the Jewish New Year." Read Gil Troy's response to Daniel May's opinion piece:
  • "My dear Penelope, when you accuse Israel of committing 'genocide,' do you actually know what you are talking about?"
  • What's for #Shabbat dinner? Try Molly Yeh's coconut quinoa with dates and nuts. Recipe here:
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.