Time Magazine’s online staff recently caught up with Def Jam signee and former Bad Boy rapper Shyne to discuss his conversion to Judaism and how it factors into his Hip Hop career. The Belize-born rapper explained how his decade-long prison sentence brought him closer to his grandfather’s Jewish faith. He added that although he maintains an unorthodox approach to his faith, he makes sure to practice the overarching ideas of his religion above all else.
“An African in America who’s pretty famous in African-American culture, you would think would be drawn to Islam, or maybe Christianity,” he said. “But I couldn’t convert to something I’m not. Islam just didn’t make sense to me. I come from the ultimate truth….European Jews are not the only Jews…It’s not about how much Torah I know and what rabbi I’m following, it’s about what I’m doing with the information.”
Shyne also discussed how his 2006 conversion changed his outlook on life and Hip Hop. He said that it led him to re-evaluate some of the more violent and misogynistic tropes of his earlier music. At the same time, he explained that his more open-ended understanding of the Jewish faith has prompted him to embark on philanthropic activities, such as funding a youth center in Belize.
“I’m absolutely not into [the] sects or gangs [of Judaism]. I love all human beings,” he explained. “[I’m approaching music in a] totally philosophical and sophisticated [way]…no misogyny. None of that deranged stuff I used to be into…I don’t even want to be a rapper. 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…the Hip Hop culture is not a philanthropic culture. eI’m not pointing the finger at them, all I’m saying is: I am a giver.”
Check out the full interview with Shyne over at Time’s website.