Moses Levi wasn’t always an Orthodox Jew living in Jerusalem. Just last year, the 32-year-old Belize born rapper finished serving a nearly 10-year prison sentence for a 1999 shooting incident that took place in a New York City bar and involved Sean Combs, then known as Puff Daddy — his former mentor — and Jennifer Lopez. Levi was charged with assault, gun possession and reckless endangerment, but he doesn’t hold a grudge: “That’s the past, I got so much going on,” he recently told The New York Times. “We move on.”
And move on he did — to the Holy Land. Prior to his arrest, Levi, whose stage name is Shyne, was already studying Judaism. However, it wasn’t until he was behind bars and under the guidance of prison rabbis that he became a practicing Jew, keeping kosher and observing Shabbat. Today, you’ll find Levi at the Western Wall, not at the club, dressed in traditional Orthodox garb and Ray-Ban sunglasses. He spends his days studying the Talmud and preparing to re-launch his music career.
Levi credits what he calls the “The science of Judaism” for connecting him to God and helping him grow into a better person. But why Orthodoxy? “I want to know the laws. I don’t want to know the leniencies. I never look for the leniencies because of all of the terrible things I’ve done in my life, all of the mistakes I’ve made,” he said.
It’s been six years since Levi released an album, but that will soon change when Def Jam Records releases his two new albums, “Messiah” and “Gangland.” Levi is making up for lost time; three more albums are scheduled to follow. His plans to tour the U.S. are on hold since he was deported after his prison release and he does not have U.S. citizenship. Levi sees no conflict in bringing together his hop hop world with his life as a Torah-observant Jew. “There’s nothing in the Chumash that says I can’t drive a Lamborghini,” and “nothing in the Halacha about driving the cars I like, about the lifestyle I live,” he explains. See, he’s just your average Shlomo.