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.
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