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Jerusalem - AP Picks Up Rapper Shyne 'Baal Thsuva' Story

Published on: November 12, 2010 07:59 AM
By: AP
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In this photo taken Thursday Nov. 11, 2010 U.S. rapper Jamal "Shyne" Barrow gestures as he talks during an interview with the Associated Press in Jerusalem. After serving eight years in prison for a nightclub shooting, Shyne, the former protege of Sean "P. 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. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)In this photo taken Thursday Nov. 11, 2010 U.S. rapper Jamal "Shyne" Barrow gestures as he talks during an interview with the Associated Press in Jerusalem. After serving eight years in prison for a nightclub shooting, Shyne, the former protege of Sean "P. 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. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

Jerusalem - The rapper Shyne is singing a new tune: After serving eight years in prison for a nightclub shooting, the former protege of Sean “P. 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.

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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.

Where he once rapped about loose women, fancy cars and hollowpoint bullets, he now fires off staccato sentences about Jewish law, peppered with Yiddish, in the same raspy voice once compared to that of the Notorious B.I.G.

“Wherever I go it is going to be the same shtick. This is who I am, you dig,” he said.

U.S. rapper Jamal "Shyne" Barrow, center, checks his phone as he walks down the street in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Sharim in Jerusalem, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. 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. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)U.S. rapper Jamal "Shyne" Barrow, center, checks his phone as he walks down the street in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Sharim in Jerusalem, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. 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. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

In his teens, he was discovered by Combs — then known as Puff Daddy — who signed him to his Bad Boy record label. Shyne embraced the lifestyle of women, booze and partying but said he was already turning it around when “the incident” happened.

In late 1999, Shyne was out one night at a Manhattan club along with Combs and his then-girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez, when he was involved in a high profile shooting that left three people injured.

Combs was cleared of gun possession charges but Shyne was sentenced to 10 years for assault, gun possession and reckless endangerment. Shyne says he acted in self-defense after someone else pulled a gun.

It was in prison where he said he became “Baal Tshuva,” the Hebrew term for a newly observant Jew. He changed his name, prayed regularly, kept kosher and observed the Sabbath. His faith helped him come to peace with his troubled past and his lengthy incarceration, saying it was God’s will and part of his ‘Tikkun’ — a spiritual voyage to make amends.

“He (God) gives kindness and He gives judgment. I’ve done some terrible things in my life, I’ve not always been the best person I can be and I gotta pay for those mistakes,” he said. Proclaiming his innocence in the shooting, he said, “my guilt is endless for a lot of other things that I didn’t get caught for, so that is how I try to look at it.”

U.S. rapper Jamal "Shyne" Barrow, second left, is seen reflected in a mirror as he gets his hair cut in a barber shop in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Sharim in Jerusalem, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. 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. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-WhitehiU.S. rapper Jamal "Shyne" Barrow, second left, is seen reflected in a mirror as he gets his hair cut in a barber shop in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Sharim in Jerusalem, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. 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. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehi

He was released a year ago and then deported to his native Belize while appealing his U.S. deportation. He reconnected with his estranged father, Prime Minister Dean Barrow, and he now serves as a goodwill ambassador.

He arrived in Israel several months ago for the Jewish New Year and has since undergone a conversion process and a symbolic circumcision.

Amid his religious studies he is preparing a comeback. His two new albums, “Gangland” and “Messiah,” are scheduled to be released in March by Def Jam records.

His goals now include becoming the biggest music star in the world, but also marrying an “Israelite” and building a religious seminary in Jerusalem for Ethiopian children. More than 120,000 Ethiopian Jews now live in Israel.

U.S. rapper Jamal "Shyne" Barrow poses for a picture in front of posters of announcements in Hebrew in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Sharim in Jerusalem, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. 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. The Hebrew on the posters are death notices on the bottom and an ad for a kosher advertising company above. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)U.S. rapper Jamal "Shyne" Barrow poses for a picture in front of posters of announcements in Hebrew in the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood of Mea Sharim in Jerusalem, Friday, Nov. 12, 2010. 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. The Hebrew on the posters are death notices on the bottom and an ad for a kosher advertising company above. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)

The journey has influenced his music. He says the themes of helping others by highlighting injustice remain the same, but he has toned down his rhetoric.

“I naturally stopped using the N-word, I naturally stopped being misogynistic,” he said. “My connection to God is the water that nourishes who I am and allows me to grow.”

But Shyne said he can’t forget his past altogether.

“I still drop the F-bomb ... but overall I am not the same person, 10 years of not having a woman, 10 years of not being able to kiss my mother makes me love women on a level that I never loved woman,” he said. “I can still blow somebody’s head off if they try to hurt my mother. We all have that in us.”


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1

 Nov 12, 2010 at 08:13 AM Anonymous Says:

There is nothing wrong with the F word, albeit it must be used in a poetic fashion rather than a profane way.

2

 Nov 12, 2010 at 08:39 AM Anonymous Says:

To #1- What planet did you arrive from; observant Jews do not engage in using vulgar, profane, or obscene language.

I though that Eretz Yisrael screens people, who wish to make Aliyah; presumably, the screening process would include a criminal background check; this former rapper was convicted of a felony, which involved violence. I would not have let him enter EY, as he could conceivably engage in violence again.

3

 Nov 12, 2010 at 08:50 AM Swiss Says:

He looks vey belz!

4

 Nov 12, 2010 at 08:54 AM hmmmm Says:

Reply to #1  
Anonymous Says:

There is nothing wrong with the F word, albeit it must be used in a poetic fashion rather than a profane way.

Would you like your kids to use it? come on!!

5

 Nov 12, 2010 at 09:21 AM Babishka Says:

Hey, he could have become a Muslim in prison!

6

 Nov 12, 2010 at 09:21 AM 12345 Says:

anyone who can find it in themselves to criticize this yid after reading this, should take his advice and do tshuva.

7

 Nov 12, 2010 at 09:23 AM Aron1 Says:

Reply to #1  
Anonymous Says:

There is nothing wrong with the F word, albeit it must be used in a poetic fashion rather than a profane way.

Are you out of your F-n mind?

8

 Nov 12, 2010 at 09:43 AM cool masmid Says:

Reply to #1  
Anonymous Says:

There is nothing wrong with the F word, albeit it must be used in a poetic fashion rather than a profane way.

'Nivul peh' is an extremely big aveira. Just look in sifrei mussar and other seforim what is said about people that engage in 'nivul peh'. So I suggest check your facts before we have to hear what you have to say.

9

 Nov 12, 2010 at 09:46 AM Anonymous Says:

What's a symbolic circumcision?

10

 Nov 12, 2010 at 10:11 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #8  
cool masmid Says:

'Nivul peh' is an extremely big aveira. Just look in sifrei mussar and other seforim what is said about people that engage in 'nivul peh'. So I suggest check your facts before we have to hear what you have to say.

bittul torah is a big aveirah, too.

So get of the internet and fix yourself before you criticize anyone else.

11

 Nov 12, 2010 at 10:12 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #4  
hmmmm Says:

Would you like your kids to use it? come on!!

He's not your kids. He's not a child. And I'm pretty sure your kids do use it anyway, just because you close your eyes to it doesn't mean it's not there.

12

 Nov 12, 2010 at 10:13 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #5  
Babishka Says:

Hey, he could have become a Muslim in prison!

So? What's your point?

13

 Nov 12, 2010 at 10:16 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

To #1- What planet did you arrive from; observant Jews do not engage in using vulgar, profane, or obscene language.

I though that Eretz Yisrael screens people, who wish to make Aliyah; presumably, the screening process would include a criminal background check; this former rapper was convicted of a felony, which involved violence. I would not have let him enter EY, as he could conceivably engage in violence again.

#2, He is apparently from Earth, but I don't know what planet you are from.

If you are under the impression that observant Jews do not engage in using this ;language, you must live in a cave somewhere.

As a matter of fact, if observant Jews don't use this language, where did YOU hear it and learn what it means?

14

 Nov 12, 2010 at 10:17 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #9  
Anonymous Says:

What's a symbolic circumcision?

Why do you want to know>?

15

 Nov 12, 2010 at 11:05 AM Moone Says:

Reply to #8  
cool masmid Says:

'Nivul peh' is an extremely big aveira. Just look in sifrei mussar and other seforim what is said about people that engage in 'nivul peh'. So I suggest check your facts before we have to hear what you have to say.

I think you should go check out the definition of Nivel Peh. The Gemarah gives a brief explanation for it, and vulgar language isn't one of it.

16

 Nov 12, 2010 at 11:47 AM The_Truth Says:

Reply to #13  
Anonymous Says:

#2, He is apparently from Earth, but I don't know what planet you are from.

If you are under the impression that observant Jews do not engage in using this ;language, you must live in a cave somewhere.

As a matter of fact, if observant Jews don't use this language, where did YOU hear it and learn what it means?

They may APPEAR observant, but someone using profane language is not observant to me.
None of us are perfect, we have heard these words and some may have/do say profane things, but to say that there is nothing wrong with it ... is just plain incorrect. It is nivul peh and should not be said.

17

 Nov 12, 2010 at 12:12 PM Anonymous Says:

To #13- I heard that word repeatedly from drill instructors when I served in the Armed Forces of the United States. Did you ever serve?

18

 Nov 12, 2010 at 12:41 PM jj235 Says:

Reply to #9  
Anonymous Says:

What's a symbolic circumcision?

They are probably calling it "symbolic" because it is halachically a circumcision, but not physically a circumcision. If a ger tzedek or a ba'al teshuvah was fully circumcised in a non halachic way (i.e. by a doctor), then, in order to make it kosher, they must do a hatafas dam bris, which is like a pin prick, which makes the previously done circumcision kosher.

19

 Nov 12, 2010 at 02:55 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #16  
The_Truth Says:

They may APPEAR observant, but someone using profane language is not observant to me.
None of us are perfect, we have heard these words and some may have/do say profane things, but to say that there is nothing wrong with it ... is just plain incorrect. It is nivul peh and should not be said.

for an observant Jew, you don't seem to know the definition of Nival Peh.....

20

 Nov 12, 2010 at 02:57 PM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #17  
Anonymous Says:

To #13- I heard that word repeatedly from drill instructors when I served in the Armed Forces of the United States. Did you ever serve?

No, I'm not that stupid.

Did you tell your drill instructor that this was nivul peh and he shouldn't talk to you like that?

No? Then don't lecture anyone else.

21

 Nov 12, 2010 at 04:49 PM Anonymous Says:

To: No. 20- It is a good thing that you didn't serve, as you would have been an embarassment to our people.

22

 Nov 13, 2010 at 08:25 PM avi e Says:

Reply to #2  
Anonymous Says:

To #1- What planet did you arrive from; observant Jews do not engage in using vulgar, profane, or obscene language.

I though that Eretz Yisrael screens people, who wish to make Aliyah; presumably, the screening process would include a criminal background check; this former rapper was convicted of a felony, which involved violence. I would not have let him enter EY, as he could conceivably engage in violence again.

Reading the article closely, one reads "He arrived in Israel several months ago for the Jewish New Year and has since undergone a conversion process and a symbolic circumcision." He certainly did not make aliyah, because when he arrived in Israel he was not yet Jewish. Nowhere does the say that he is a citizen of Israel, just that he is living there.

23

 Nov 13, 2010 at 09:46 PM snowflake Says:

first of all Shyne if ur reading this,congrats on joining our people! we are honoured to have you in our army...awesome music can't wait for your upcoming albums,reach out to fellow chabadnikim we really have some other fellow talented artists you can befriend and have more in common with even marry.

24

 Nov 13, 2010 at 11:06 PM Rachel W. Says:

I'm lovin' it ... way to go, Shyne! Keep on shining, Moshe Levi Ben-David. We're rooting for you!!!

25

 Nov 14, 2010 at 01:01 AM Anonymous Says:

Reply to #21  
Anonymous Says:

To: No. 20- It is a good thing that you didn't serve, as you would have been an embarassment to our people.

for what? being dumb enough to be in the service? maybe so.

26

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