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HomeJudaismJewish CultureBlack is Beautiful
Black is Beautiful
By: Tal Rotem

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People ask, "What's there to see in Seattle? It's like any other American city..."
No, it's not. There're big things happening in Seattle - really big - connected to fact that Moshiach is so close. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches us that the further a person is from Hashem, the greater the sanctification of Hashem's Name when that person seeks Hashem.

Rebbe Nachman must have been referring to rapper and hip-hop star Nissim (formerly Damian) Black. From the depths of the Seattle inner-city street scene with all the drugs, violence and the other junk that goes along with it, Nissim is today a righteous convert and a Torah learner, embarking on a renewed career where he's now using his music to spread the teachings of emuna. And he's doing a great job.

Image above: Hip Hop star Nissim (Damian) Black, making his musical comeback on the path of emuna

Nissim grew up in tough in south Seattle, which provided the background of the "Damian era" of northwest hip hop with its high energy and hard hitting truths about life in the ghetto.  Drugs, poverty and violence made up the climate of his childhood.  Pouring his heart and soul into his music, he attained major national recognition by his early twenties and was listed top 5 on the CMJ music charts.  His album reached the top 12 on in 2009.  Success was his, and the dream that every artist shares was coming true until violence hit close to home. "Damian" suddenly turned off the microphone, and stepped down from the stage. Here's what happened:

One night, Damian and his friends from Sportn’ Life Records were at a club, when they encountered a rapper from a rival group who started bad-mouthing Damian and one of his songs.  A scuffle broke out between the two groups.  Later that night, Damian found out that one of his own friends had gone on a shooting spree to protest the insult to Damian. Damian Black's lif hit a critical crossroads: he had to choose between making music that perpetuated the very violence his songs were about, or step out of the limelight and give up the dream that had supported him and his family. It wasn't simple because the Blacks were expecting their first child.

Damian Black before his spiritual rebirth - a gnawing spiritual void...

Even worse, "Damian" felt a gnawing spiritual void gave the young rapper no peace of mind. He began a difficult spiritual journey to discover "Nissim" - to find truth and strengthen his connection with his Creator. His spiritual quest led him to seek divine solace in an array of churches, mosques and Messianic Congregations.  He often felt like he was going down dead-end streets.

Finally, his long time collaborator and best friend, Bradley “Yosef” Brown turned him on to Torah and Judaism together.  Inspired by the depth and extent of spiritual riches that Judaism, Nissim and his wife became righteous converts. Together with the Brown family,  the Blacks moved out of their old neighborhood and into the main Jewish community of Seattle. Today, Nissim is an active member of the Orthodox community; he's made a significant impact on the youth of his new community as well.  That's no wonder, for his smile and personality are utterly irresistible.

Once "Damian" became "Nissim", it looked like he put his microphone in the attic for good. He started work as a leasing consultant.  Then the big test of his emuna came - his four-month-old son was suddenly hospitalized and diagnosed with an aggressive case of potentially fatal meningitis. 
Nissim turned to Hashem in the manner that he had learned from his teachers and from the books of Rabbi Shalom Arush and the CDs of Rabbi Lazer Brody, who he met personally in Seattle. He secluded himself in personal prayer for stretches of up to six hours per day.  In between the hours spent at his son’s bedside in the hospital and the long bouts of prayer, Nissim had been receiving phone calls and emails from fans, teachers, and Rabbis from all across the world, urging him to create music again, and to act as an inspiration for others.  Torn between the fear of failure, and a sense of obligation to utilize his God-given musical talents, Nissim innocently with simple emuna made a deal with Hashem: “If I am to make music again, and spread your Divine light in this world, Hashem, You make my microphone work!”

It had been a maybe year since Nissim’s microphone had mysteriously stopped working, and that night Nissim set up his home studio for the first time since the microphone malfunction; sure enough, the microphone was in perfect condition.  Ten brand-new songs later, the mic, which played a part in Nissim’s retirement, is now the very symbol of his rebirth as an artist. That's what's called bringing your past into kedusha.
Having purged himself of secular music, and spending time in musical retirement, Nissim re-entered the studio with a newfound flavor and passion for music with the clear mission of worldwide spiritual elevation.
“God redeemed me from all the negatives that were in my life growing up, from where I was.  I owe it to Him to use the gifts He gave me to connect myself and the world to Him,” he told me. Inspired by his fans, his teachers, and his loved ones, Nissim is reemerging as a musical artist with the clear mission of uniting the world through music, knowledge, and Torah concepts rooted in Emuna.  With themes drawn from Chassidut, Tehilim, and biblical narratives, and a yearning to unite all people by bringing them on the path of d’veykut – connecting to the Source, Nissim’s new musical venture is sure to rekindle the flame his loyal fans have carried as well as to people of all backgrounds, who are yet to discover the magic of Nissim.  We wish him tremendous success.

As a treat for Breslev Israel readers, here's "Ricochet", a song from Nissim's newest album.

"Ricochet" lyrics:

Let it go, let ‘em push, make a throw, Watch it ricochet,
If it is yours / then it will be yours / you let it go / so you can be sure / don't chase what you can't have, What you cant have
VERSE #1: 

Make a push/ go Hard/ Move quick /but don't fall/ Dream like a winner/ eyes on the prize / you see further with your chin up/ The breakdown/ Awaits you/ have faith now/ for breakthroughs/ If its yours it'll be no doubt/ And if isn't you, you be better of without/ or better in a drought/ With a prayer in your mouth/ than to have success while suffering with doubt/ I know your trying figure out/ who you really are and what you all about/ know this/ the anecdote is/ closeness/ for the hopeless/ patience is a virtue/ and if it isn't yours can probably hurt you

Let it go, let ‘em push, make a throw, Watch it ricochet,
If it is yours / then it will be yours / you let it go / so you can be sure / don't chase what you can't have, What you cant have

Take it slow/ Do it strong/ Reap benefits/ then bring it home/ you’ve got to do it for a purpose/ Don't do for your self/ do for another person/ The Righteous/ will prosper/ the wicked/ No opera / the cost of/ the good deed/ will hurt you first but then set you free/ I only want to make the world feel/ the other worlds, while being here still/ Move till they feel it, move from the physical, reach for the spirit/ one goal/ the attainable/ the unknown/ the blamable/ patience is a virtue/ and if it isn't yours can hurt you.
Let it go, let ‘em push, make a throw, Watch it ricochet,
If it is yours / then it will be yours / you let it go / so you can be sure / Don't chase what you can't have, What you cant have
© 2012 Damian “Nissim” Black for Orach Emet Music Company (OEMCo) 


Image, above: Nissim Black, a new life of emuna and an irresistible new smile.



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