זכריה ישי דוד אולואבנקולי לוין
Zecharya Yishai Levine
Zecharya Yishai Levine

L’Chaim OG: Cousin of singer Prince is a Haredi rapper living in Jerusalem

Zecharya Yishai Levine, was born and raised in a black Christian family of civil rights activists in Minnesota; now, he finds himself studying at a yeshiva in Israel and is unwilling to leave even after encountering racism

Tali Farkash, Eli Mandelbaum |
Published: 03.09.22, 15:14
A moment after he finished his photoshoot for Ynet, Zecharya Yishai Levine was already on his way to England, then to Washington and from there to Miami.
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  • Was he going on a tour? "Yes, a tour of holiness," said the 36-year-old Haredi rapper who now lives in Jerusalem.
    6 צפייה בגלריה
    זכריה ישי דוד אולואבנקולי לוין
    זכריה ישי דוד אולואבנקולי לוין
    Zecharya Yishai Levine
    Although he had lived in Israel for two years, it was the longest time spend anywhere in his adult life.
    "King David was the first Yeshiva rapper in history.. maybe King Solomon was number two and I guess I'm fighting to get the number three spot," he said.
    Levine was born and raised in a black Christian community in Minnesota to a family of civil rights activists, until he discovered Judaism and became an Orthodox rapper known as "L’Chaim OG".
    6 צפייה בגלריה
    זכריה ישי דוד אולואבנקולי לוין - ראפר מתגייר ובן דודו של הזמר פרינס
    זכריה ישי דוד אולואבנקולי לוין - ראפר מתגייר ובן דודו של הזמר פרינס
    Zecharya Yishai Levine as a child (right)
    He considers himself a Jew of African-American descent, although he said he never intended to become a Jew. his belief in God has never dimmed, even after being subjected to racism and injustice as a child.
    "As a kid in church, I was passionate about my faith and about my belief in God," he said."Growing up we read the bible a lot and I said thank God when I got older, I will learn Hebrew and I would be a superman like Abraham and Moses."
    "I had a relative who told me that our family had immigrated from Israel down to West Africa, that we were the people of the bible and that motivated me in my journey, and I've been hustling ever since after the Torah and Kdusha, (holiness)" he said.
    6 צפייה בגלריה
    זכריה ישי דוד אולואבנקולי לוין
    זכריה ישי דוד אולואבנקולי לוין
    Zecharya Yishai Levine
    "Everyone was like what's up? Hey, you're learning more we want to know more. We love you. Don’t leave us out."
    Levine, however, emphasizes his journey in Israel was not smooth and he was particularly surprised by the racism he encountered. He said he prefers not to talk about the incident that evoked old traumas, but said he believed God wanted him to experience it so that he could help others in similar situations.
    Levine was born and raised in northern Minneapolis, Minnesota, the birthplace of many black cultural heroes, including his cousin, the famous singer Prince who passed away in 2019.
    6 צפייה בגלריה
    פרינס
    פרינס
    Prince
    (Photo: AP)
    "One of my biggest musical influences was my cousin, whose music was revolutionary, and speeches were inspirational," he said.
    The area where he lived in the U.S. as a child was actually an old Jewish neighborhood, until Jewish left after the human rights struggles back in the 60s.
    Levine is connected to his black roots and to the community of his youth, making his conversion to the Jewish religion even more interesting, as it also relates to the African story.
    6 צפייה בגלריה
    זכריה ישי דוד אולואבנקולי לוין
    זכריה ישי דוד אולואבנקולי לוין
    Zecharya Yishai Levine
    He said people don't give the story of slavery enough credit as it effects future generations. He found the notion of a white Jesus incomprehensible and said he did not buy it.
    From the idea of slavery and enslavement, Levine found himself getting close to the Torah.
    Like Abraham, he said, he made the journey in search of God and Judaism to him became something that is "beyond a religion," but rather a way to communicate with divinity. That, he said, gave him freedom.
    6 צפייה בגלריה
    זכריה ישי דוד אולואבנקולי לוין ראפר מתגייר
    זכריה ישי דוד אולואבנקולי לוין ראפר מתגייר
    Zecharya Yishai Levine
    Now he not only a yeshiva student, but also a thriving ultra-orthodox rapper. He says the music he creates comes from his own personal experiences. He said he tries to provide knowledge through his lyrics so that people could find their path back home to God.
    "I am really not so concern with others' judgement, I know God will judge me much more accurately and much more stringently, and so I'm just trying to clear my tab, you know?" Levine said.



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