HBO Max is working on a new comedy series based on the life of Hasidic rapper Nissim Black.
Black, who is from Seattle, Washington and lives in Israel, shared the news on Twitter on Monday (April 25), writing: “Big announcement today…hope this series brings Joy, and dispells [sic] a lot of the misinformation going on out there, with G-d’s help. Stay tuned. #NissimBlack #G0DSMAN #HBOMax“
The new show, Motherland Bounce, will come from writer and comedian Moshe Kasher. The title comes from one of Black’s recent singles, which you can check out below.
Deadline reported the exclusive announcement: “Created and written by Kasher with story by Black and directed by Richardson-Whitfield, Motherland Bounce is the story of Black’s spiritual quest as the former gangster rapper becomes the world’s first Black Chassidic Jewish hip hop star.”
American Songwriter spoke with Black a few years ago about his then-new music and being “Hitler’s Worst Nightmare.”
Below is a sample from that interview:
American Songwriter: You are a very unique person in the worlds you travel. Does that mean you have to have thick skin when people might, say, point? And, if so, how did you develop that patience?
Nissim Black: Absolutely. It’s a very interesting thing because it’s a place where you go where you’re liable to make everybody feel uncomfortable, you know what I’m saying? Not just uncomfortable – the curiosity, it’s very hard for people to hide. [Laughs] Not too many people can put on too good of a game face when they see me because everybody has to have questions, you know what I’m saying? But I think the fact that my general personality is such that I’m a people person. I’m also just as interested in people. And because I’ve had to have – just the way things were designed in life for me, I had to have a story, a journey. I know that everybody has journeys. As much as I get the opportunity to share mine, I know it offers fresh perspectives for other people. One of my biggest things – because my life has been, the way that the book starts doesn’t mean that’s the way that is has to end – I enjoy sharing my journey for other people to think outside of the box. Because I remember when I was a kid feeling like I would be stuck forever. So, it gives me an opportunity more than I look at it like a burden.
AS: In a way, you’re also a lens through which Israeli and Jewish folks can participate in American and hip-hop culture. What is that responsibility like?
NB: It’s huge. Because to a major degree, I hold a position in the Jewish community that’s like a Rabi, some would say, you know what I mean? It’s not because of the music it’s just because of the figure that I’ve become inside of the overall community. So, sometimes it’s very tough because you have to be very careful, quite honestly, with the things you do and everything you say. It’s actually funny, I was just writing a song about this idea. There’s a lot of calculation of your steps and seeking a lot of council and guidance from people that you feel are very qualified. You really have to rely on advice. Not people to live your life for you, of course. But definitely a lot of council and soul searching. And the true ingredient is that I have a great wife and a great best friend, who are two great people to run things by. So, that’s been huge.
AS: You are famously Orthodox but you’ve also participated in two other religions previously, Islam and Christianity. So, more than any specific religion, where do you think your search for a home within religion comes from?
NB: You know, as a kid, in addition to the music side, I was also very spiritual for no reason at all. I didn’t have any – there wasn’t a lot of spirituality going on around me. But, you know, sometimes people get drunk and they start talking about God and all of that and so, as a kid, I’d just sit around and listen to people sometimes. But I didn’t – there wasn’t, I can’t think of an event or anything that happened but I remember especially right around the age of 13 when I really started to feel a major, like, lacking. There was something I was missing, that connection to Godliness or spirituality. That sort of search, I would say, happened at the highest.
Now, Islam – originally, my grandfather, who is Muslim, came to live with us when I was very young, so I started practicing because my grandfather was the only religious person I knew in my life at that point. Simultaneously, or shortly after this, maybe by ’98, my biological father – my parents had been split – had become a minister and started school in ministry. Today, he’s a professor in religion and Christianity. He’s a pastor and runs an addiction program. This is a guy who used to sell big drugs back in the day. Now, you know, he’s a director of a faith-based drug program and a pastor – a major turnaround! So, I think that also inspired me. Although it’s a different religion, I’m a Jew today and he’s a Christian, he sold out for what he believes. He sold everything, his apartments, cars. He lived in a studio apartment and really focused himself on his spirituality and built himself up. It was so, like, “What just happened!?” [Laughs] He was a big drug guy back in the day. And to see that type of transformation, I think, for me, as I was going into my teenage years, was something that gave me something to look to. So, I think it had an effect on me maybe indirectly. But it definitely had an effect on me.
Later, I ended up going to another hip-hop program – it’s always music that draws me in. There was this music program when I was 13 – my boy, Fatal, brought me to this hip-hop program. That’s what started to introduce me to Gospel missions. We did a play about somebody who was on his deathbed and the prayers were going up to heaven and I was on the “dark” side and my friend was on the “light” side and it was good versus evil. There were things that happened inside that play, man, that made me so – you get vulnerable, spiritually. That led to great relationships with the people with the missionary. And that’s the thing, they’re working to bring you to religion. So, I ended up going to camp with them and that was a place for me because I had a lot of mess going on at home and everyday I lived there. It was the place for me to get away. So, that was that.
The Judaism thing, which is much more complex and very much more owned, I would say. I was searching on my own and I got into this altercation with another rapper that, you know, led to beef that led to either a kill or be killed situation. It’s one of those crazy situations, another reflection moment [Laughs]. Like, “What am I going to do? Am I going to live this life?” But I was spared in the sense that the beef didn’t continue. We were able to squash everything and put it behind us. From that point on, I was just, like, “I’ve got to figure out who I am?” And I started searching, really just digging up religion to the core, you know what I mean? On my own. Nobody was there, no influences. No grandpa, no friends, no mission. I just want to sit with the text, let me go back, I’m going to get dictionaries. I was doing, like, eight hours a day. I started fasting. I was going three days in a row with no food. Going out crying. I had developed a very sensitive spiritual heart that really opened me up.
Judaism was screaming to me. The text and the honesty of it. The biggest thing for me was just, like, seeing how they kept messing up. Man, that whole Bible is about mess-ups! [Laughs] Everybody’s a screw up, the nation’s a screw up. You want to know what you are? And to see how much that didn’t deter God from his love, and the whole integrity of the Old Testament, the integrity of it is on the fact that God is saying, “No matter what I’ll never leave you.” And that was just something for me, I wanted to be a part of that relationship, you know?