From Mexico City, the world's formost Orthodox rapper moved to Jerusalem in 2010, correspondent Karl Vick blogs in Time.com. For an ultra-orthodox Jew he seems, well, unorthodox. Read on:
Moshe Levi both fits in and doesn’t. Race is only part of it. Israeli Jews come in all shades, from the Falash of Ethiopia to the pinkest German Ashkenazi. When it comes to religious observance, however, skin color generally signals less than attire. The round felt hat, formal suit and high white stockings Levi sports is the uniform of the Ultra-Orthodox, Jews who dress in the clothes of 18th century Eastern Europe for a reason: They take great efforts to form communities removed from a modern world riven with degradations like television, the internet and, yes, rap music. As a group, they are also the poorest Jews in Israel, families often subsisting on welfare while the husband spends the day studying scripture.Read more.
That’s not Levi, who doesn’t actually read Hebrew. “I’m more of a doer than a reader,” he says.
Nor does he follow a particular rabbi, another Ultra-Orthodox norm. “I definitely try not to get into the whole gang affiliation thing,” Levi says. If on some days he wears a striped suit, other times flat black, it’s because he admires the traditions. He also jets up to Paris for Fashion Week.
“I don’t really have time to figure out their thing. I have my thing.”
His thing is not Zionism, the ideology that brought Israel into existence as a state. “Absolutely not,” Levi says. “I just said I’m absolutely not into sects or gangs. I love all human beings.”
His thing is music. As Shyne, he has completed two unreleased albums, Gangland and Messiah. Both are rap, but “totally philosophical and sophisticated,” he says. “No misogyny. None of that deranged stuff I used to be into” a decade or so ago, as a protégé of Sean “P. Diddy” Combs at Bad Boy Entertainment. He was with Combs and his girlfriend at the time, Jennifer Lopez, when the ruckus broke out in the Club New York. Combs and his bodyguard were also tried but acquitted.
“I don’t even want to be a rapper,” Levi says at one point in the interview. “I don’t listen to that music. I’m a musician. I’d rather be like Bob Marley or Leonard Cohen, one of those guys.”