TEL AVIV – A twice-converted black rapper and YouTube sensation from Seattle is heading to Israel to make a new life for himself as an Orthodox Jew, the Times of Israel reported.
Nissim Baruch Black of Seattle, Washington, features on the viral YouTube song, HaShem Melech 2.0 (“God is King”), garnering close to half a million views. Black, who collaborated with Israeli-born writer and composer Gad Elbaz on the song, told the Times of Israel that it was a reflection of his artistic and spiritual journey from Christianity to Islam to Orthodox Judaism.
“The song speaks about salvation from heaven, and I meditated on that for a long time. At the end of the day the song and its meaning is beyond any of us. Okay, the song is catchy, but it also lifts people out of dark places,” Black said.
Gad Elbaz, son of Israeli singer Benny Elbaz, asked Black to collaborate on a remix of the original song that was released a few years prior.
“His life story touched my heart and I feel the Jewish world needs someone like him to inspire a new generation of music in the Jewish industry,” Elbaz said.
Black is the son of musical parents – his father is Captain Crunch from the 1980s rap group Emerald Street Boys – who were also drug abusers and dealers. Born and raised in the Seward Park neighborhood of Seattle, Black describes his house as being like Grand Central Station for drug use. His parents separated when he was two and his mother was arrested on drug charges when he was seven. She died of an overdose at the age of 37.
Black was then raised by his musician grandfather, a Muslim who would read the Koran to Black and show him how to pray. Black said he felt a little more secure with his grandfather in his life — until the day his grandfather was arrested. In 1996, while Black was in Jerusalem, his grandfather, who once played alongside Quincy Jones and Ray Charles, was arrested on a parole violation and sent back to prison where he died in 2013.
Black started rapping at age 13 under the name of D. Black. His song “Ali ‘Yah” reached number four on the CMJ hip hop charts and he performed at several festivals including SXSW and Capitol Hill Block Party.
But the musician kept searching for meaning and dabbled with Christianity and Messianic Judaism.
“I always felt different, out of place. I had a drive to find a place to fit in,” he said.
Black, who grew up in close proximity to a Jewish community, started researching Judaism on the internet.
“When I came to Judaism I found the connection I had been looking for,” he said.
In 2008, Black married his childhood sweetheart Adina, and after their conversion in 2013 they were married again in an Orthodox ceremony.
Later this month, Black, his wife, and their four children will immigrate to Israel.
“Since I told friends we made the decision so many have come up to me and said, ‘We wish we had done that,’” Black told the Times of Israel. “I didn’t want to ever say I wish we had done it. My kids and wife are very excited. I’m very excited. I’m also leaving the only place I’ve ever known, but I feel fearless.”
Black plans to settle in Jerusalem and collaborate with local musicians.
“I have no shtick. It’s just all coming from my heart, because at the end of the day we are all connected,” Black said.