Black people aren’t monolithic, and we love to see it! Nissim Black is from Seattle, and has a different story. Originally, Black was a gangsta rapper, detailing stories about his life. He has converted into an Ultra Orthodox Jew, and shares his story in the new episode of Vice’s “Gangsta Rap International” docuseries.
Growing up in Seattle wasn’t easy. Black was “exposed to and witnessed a lot of violence,” he says. Both of his parents were drug dealers. “I remember coming home from elementary school and seeing kilos of dope on the table and guns,” he tells Vice. The lifestyle led a young Damian Jahmol Black to joining gangs prior to turning his life around.
Black’s episode debuted December 17, 2019. Host Chuckie Lothian traveled to Jerusalem to interview the respected rapper who left the states in 2016 to immerse himself in religious culture. The response to Black’s presence as a Black Orthodox Jewish rapper based in Israel has been well received.
“Overall an acceptance worldwide for sure,” he tells Vice but notes that he’s had some detractors. “You have bad apples” he says and adds “for sure you’re going to feel different when everyone is staring at you.”
As D.Black, Black released two albums, “The Cause and Effect” (2006) and “Ali’yah” (2009). He retired as a gangsta rapper in 2010 and reemerged in 2013, adopting his Hebrew name Nissim. That same year, he released his Miracle Music mixtape, his first official recording under his new moniker. Black also released his self-titled album, as well as the Hanukkah single “The Black Miracle.”
His 2016 song “Hashem Melech 2.0” with Gad Elbaz reached No. 3 on iTunes world charts, received more than 5 million views on YouTube and was downloaded more than 350,000 times. His single “A Million Years” was streamed more than 2.4 million times on YouTube. Black has been covered by BBC, ABC and The Guardian and recently released the song “Never Forget.”
Black achieved modest success as gangsta rapper D.Black in the mid to late 2000s. He revealed to Vice that he was approached to play Notorious B.I.G.
“They wanted a Big, but they wanted you to act,” he says. “I had my own vision of who Big was. So my Big was a different Big. I obviously didn’t get the role.” While Nissim admits the acting part would have helped his career, he is at peace about not getting cast. “I think it would have hindered me from being where I am right now.”
While Black has embraced his new lifestyle, he hasn’t forgotten his roots. Last summer, he visited old friends in his hometown in Seattle and adorns his Hissidic garb with American hip hop staples like a pair of Yeezys. He even addresses like issues in his song and dance “MothaLand Bounce.” “It’s my way of saying I may have become a Jew but I’m still Black.” “MothaLand Bounce” drops in January.