Black rapper who found spiritual home in Orthodoxy on the move to Israel

NEW YORK – From the heart of the Big Apple, one of the world’s most multicultural cities, comes the rap rhapsody “HaShem Melech 2.0.”

The anthem-like song, with almost 450,000 views on YouTube to date, marks the first time Israeli-born writer and composer Gad Elbaz collaborated with Nissim Baruch Black of Seattle, Washington. But it’s not the words, or even the melody, that sets it apart in Black’s eyes. It’s the way it spoke to the 30-year-old’s own artistic and spiritual journey from Christianity to Islam to Orthodox Judaism.

“The song speaks about salvation from heaven, and I mediated 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 in a telephone interview with The Times of Israel.

It was in 2013 that Black, formerly known as D. Black, first heard Elbaz’s recording of the song. Soon afterwards he went home and played it for his son, then just over a year old. As toddlers will do, his son asked Black to play it again and again and “one more time whether I wanted to or not,” Black said.

Then just a little more than a year ago Elbaz contacted Black and asked him to collaborate on a remix of the song. Black didn’t hesitate. He knew and admired Elbaz, the son of Israeli singer, Benny Elbaz.

Something of a prodigy, Elbaz began singing and writing at the age of four. He broke out as a solo artist in 1998, after being featured on four CD’s with his father, whom he said “influenced my character, my performance, and me being professional in what I do.” Elbaz added that he has his “own style and aims to bring more color to the Jewish music scene so the new generation will feel more related too.”

Elbaz’s latest album “Ze Hayom” was released in 2014. When he was working on the latest incarnation of “HaShem Melech 2.0” he knew he wanted to work with Black.

‘The Jewish world needs someone like him to inspire a new generation of music in the Jewish industry’
“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 at once humbled and awed that he came this far, given that his childhood and teen years were a whirlwind of instability.

Born and raised in the Seward Park neighborhood of Seattle to musical parents — his father is Captain Crunch from the 1980s rap group Emerald Street Boys – Black’s parents used and sold drugs. The musician once described his house as being like Grand Central Station for dealers and users. His parents separated when he was two and when his mother was arrested on drug charges when he was seven. She died from an overdose at the age of 37.

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