His name is Nissim – which means miracles in Hebrew.
Seward Park is a neighborhood in southeast Seattle. Most of Seattle’s Orthodox Jews live there.
Nissim Black, formerly Damian Black grew up in Seward Park a few blocks from Rainier Avenue which borders with Seward Park.
His grandparents were musicians who worked alongside Ray Charles and Quincy Jones.
His father is Captain Crunch from the legendary Emerald Street Boys and his mother was in the rap world as well. His mentor, Vitamin D – DJ, producer and MC, showed him the ropes, and began recording him at age 13.
Nissim’s home had its challenges that were to ironically set him on the road to spiritual meaning. His parents like many in the high pressured world of talent used drugs and they also sold drugs. His mother left his father when Nissim was two. His stepfather too used and sold drugs. Unfortunately his mother died of an overdose when she was 37. He was 19.
Still Nissim became one of three Seattle-area rappers featured on the album. "God Like” – Nissim’s D.Black feature on the album was a big hit.
Another local rapper wanted attention. D. Black was on the way up so the publicity of insulting him and so provoking a response was to be that other rappers ticket to fame.
Things escalated. Soon a friend of D. Black opened fire in a nightclub and the cops were called and the friend went to jail and D.Black was a wanted man. Fear of further trouble caused the other rapper to call Nissim and they worked it out. It was a close call and it got Nissim thinking about a better life.
Nissim thought a lot about miracles and faith and religion and God. It was all around him.
A Seattle-based evangelical group recruited him – now 13 – for their summer camp. He was inspired and on a high and by the end of the summer he converted to Christianity.
He started asking questions. Shouldn't we still observe the commandments of the “Old Testament” to show G-d how much we love Him he wondered.
Nissim became a messianic Jew: a practicing Jew and a believer in Jesus. And that was comfortable because he didn’t want to give up on Jesus.
Still Nissim had a lot of questions. He was studying all the time.
He went to his biological father. Since the time Nissim’s mother had left him, his father had cleaned up his act and was on his way to becoming a Christian theologian (today he is a professor of Christian thought at a number of colleges in the Seattle area).
Nissim wasn't satisfied with his father's reply. He left Christianity and the Christian holidays. His wife was a hardcore Seventh Day Adventist who went to church on Saturdays.
A picture of Nissim's brother-in-law now someone who helps students in their learning in Yeshiva a school of higher Jewish learning. Nissim is proud of him having reached that state.
Nissim having convinced his devout Seventh Day Adventist wife to study, they opened the books, asked questions, and searched online. She took the lead and pushed him to consider an orthodox conversion. And she convinced her sister and her sister’s husband to join them as well.
Nissim’s second album, Ali ‘Yah, came out at that time. He was a messianic Jew when the album was recorded but had abandoned this belief about six months after its release. He was also studying with a rabbi and working toward conversion. He wanted to study and grow and get on with conversion.
Ali ‘Yah was a great success. With the tour behind him, Nissim and his wife and brother-in-law and sister-in-law began the long arduous process of conversion. It was a multiyear process and culminated in a massive double re-wedding paid for in full by the Seattle Jewish community.
Nissim wasn’t working and his family was growing. His wife and brother-in-law told him to get back into music.
Then his son got a fever for days and then they were in the hospital and it was serious.
He prayed for his son and for everything that’s important. He prayed for clarity and guidance.
Eventually he decided it was time to put his gifts back into action, to inspire, to be a positive role model, and to help others.
A record deal fell into his lap, invitations for music festivals came out of nowhere, the local press took a sudden interest in him, and he recorded a new album.
Nissim's rabbi, Rabbi Simon Benzaquen, cannot overstate how important he feels Nissim's new music is. "Nissim is accomplishing two extremely important things with his new album," Rabbi Benzaquen says. "America's Jews and African-Americans should be natural allies. We have both overcome so much and share so much. Nissim is an important bridge in bringing us together. And what's more, Nissim's music transcends the standard bravado of rap. He is reclaiming the music's natural poetry.
Black believes there are many black geirim (converts) due to the fact that “African Americans come from slaves…[it] helps them identify with Jewish history and creates opportunities for potential converts to get close to G-d.”
On February 26, 2013, he released the mixtape Miracle Music, his first official recording under his new stage name, Nissim.
In 2016, he collaborated with Gad Elbaz on the song "Hashem Melech 2.0". The song was an instant hit peaking at #3 on iTunes world charts and over 350,000 Total downloads.
Using his incredible talents for G-d now inspires Black and his fans worldwide alike.
Nissim and his family have moved to Jerusalem. He says: “When I came to Judaism, I gave up rap, I gave up everything that I knew…Slowly Hashem gave back to me the things that were important…to ultimately help and affect the Jewish people.”
"I'm originally from Seattle, WA. My father and my mother were both rappers. I used to affiliate with the Folk Gang, GDN (Gangsta Disciple Nation). I Practiced Islam as a kid with my grandfather. I recorded my first professional record at age 13. I converted to the Christian faith after building a relationship with missionary friends. First global recognition came when I was featured on super producer JakeOne's "white van music". Later I had the privilege of my music video for my single "yesterday" being in rotation on MTV. I left music at the height of my career to pursue faith and was led to Orthodox Judaism."
"I can't say that my music and my religious quest had anything to do with each other. What influenced my journeying to Judaism was my drive to find the truth that resonates within. Only after realizing through profuse study, fasting and meditation did I discover this truth. It naturally became a part of my musical content as it became my life."
"I want my music to hit a place inside where a person begins to think or rather contemplate on either or not I'm living life to the fullest. Not in a self loathing way, but using the songs as a means of self reflection and hope."
"I want the world to experience G-d through my music. Not in a preachy way, but in a way where one becomes comfortable with G-d's presence being in ones life. I want to spiritually elevate the world, and bring forth G-d's unwavering love and affection he has for all of creation no matter how distant they may feel. Only that He hasn't given up on them."
"My spiritual Journey has had a tremendous impact on my family life and values. The importance of the family relationship in Judaism is maybe its greatest praise. The enhanced love I have from my wife and children as a result of Jewish teachings is beyond words. We are forced to be actively involved and in a real relationship with our loved ones that society doesn't usually warrant."