Chabad rabbi tops the charts with hip hop

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Chabad rabbi tops the charts with hip hop

Moshe Reuven comes from a secular background but is now fully observant even while on tour

When Moshe Reuven landed in London from New Jersey to play his first-ever UK shows, his fame as a chart-topping hip hop artist with millions of social media followers preceded him.

With new song Red & Yellow currently No1 in Israel, US gigs that attract thousands of fans and collaborations with the likes of Julian Marley, he is one of rap’s fastest rising stars.

What may take people by surprise is that he is also a Chabad rabbi – who continues to study, pray and follow strict Jewish observance every day, even while touring.

As diverse as his two worlds may first appear, they are melded by his deep faith and conviction. The message of his unique rap poetry interweaves personal experience with the wisdom of Torah teachings, appealing to listeners worldwide of all faiths and backgrounds.

Speaking to Jewish News, while observing the pre-Purim Fast of Esther, he smiles when asked if he feels lucky to have reached this point in his.

“Lucky isn’t the word,” he replies. “I feel blessed. “It has taken a lot of time and a lot of work to get to where I am now and I feel blessed that God was behind me to give me a push in this direction.”

Moshe’s great-grandfather was from a family of Chasidim, but his own childhood was spent in a non-religious, non-kosher Conservative (equivalent to the UK’s Masorti) household in Florida, where he grew up as Marc Sheradsky.

Moshe Reuven

With three brothers and lots of friends, he enjoyed Florida’s party scene… probably a little too much. Partying and drinking were the norm, until a near-death experience changed his outlook on life. “I was at a party and had a drink, but something tasted off. It must have been spiked; I think maybe someone had done it for what they thought was a joke. I found myself in a room and couldn’t move. I lay down on the ground, I felt like I might die.

“That was a turning point in realisation that my life had to be better that this. I felt God was giving me an ultimatum that I must embark on a more meaningful path or it would be wasted.”

This set the rapper on a path towards finding God, but it didn’t happen overnight. A visit to Chabad marked a turning point. He said: “Being at Chabad had a profound influence in igniting a quest to find out more about Judaism.

“I stopped going out on Friday nights, fully observed Shabbat, only ate kosher and grew a beard which my brothers constantly teased me about.”

He next went to Israel to study at yeshiva, which he recognised as further awakening on why he was here. Back home, he furthered his religious studies at the Chabad Rabbinical College of America in New York, where he gained his semicha in 2021.

Now 31 and living in New Jersey with his wife Rivka, the couple enjoy travelling together wherever his music takes him – including tours in Canada, Greece, Brazil, and across the US and Israel.

This latest trip, to London and Manchester, was facilitated by Eli Goldsmith (Unity Bookings) from the well-known London Goldsmith family of event promoters.

Moshe told us: “We have been typical American tourists, visiting all the famous sights including Buckingham Palace. We were told the flag was flying because the King was there!”

When asked how he broke into the mainstream music business that has made all this possible, he simply says: “Baruch Hashem, everything comes from above.”

Unsure how to blend the music he was making with the Jewish observance he was coming into, Moshe recalls being given a CD by another Jewish singer, Matisyahu – who combines spiritual themes with reggae, rap and hip-hop – and found beauty in what Matisyahu was doing.

To have now have performed together was one of many career highlights. “He actually told me he loved my music; at that moment I felt I’d come full circle,” Moshe remembers.

His prolific songwriting comes from the heart of Jewish history, beliefs and philosophy. The hip hop sounds of his youth, especially during his time a basketball player, are a key influence – but he’s also inspired by his parents’ choice of music including Elton John and the Beatles.

Talking about putting everything together into his inspirational concerts, he told us: “I just like meeting people and relating to them. Each audience is different with its own vibe and when I go on stage, I focus on what they want and give it to them.

“Not all in my crowds are religious, or even Jewish. Other very different people relate to the messages and are affected by them. I just try to leave them happy and uplifted.”

It’s all a far cry from those early years. He says: “My parents are very proud but in a surprised way, and my brothers and friends are amazed. Nobody could have expected things to turn out this way… not even me.”

Moshe Reuven’s music is streaming on Spotify.

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