I have no idea what this all means, but it sure makes for interesting reading. Belize-born rapper Shyne, born Jamal Michael Barrow, is the son of the Prime Minister of Belize and an Ethiopian Jewish mother. His smash hip hop debut album was followed closely by a conviction and 10-year prison sentence, on charges resulting from a notorious 1999 Bronx night club shootout that occurred while Shyne was in the company of Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs and Jennifer Lopez. Shyne underwent a prison conversion to Orthodox Judaism, adopted the Hebrew name Moshe Levy Ben-David, and now wears Belzer Chasidic garb and studies Talmud in a Jerusalem yeshiva. Oh, and he still records for Def Jam Records. Read all about it in the Jerusalem Post.
UPDATE, Friday, Nov. 12: In light of the welcome reader comment from reader Chaya Gabriela Bat-Avraham, I should clarify that by the phrase "prison conversion," I did not mean that Moshe Levi Ben-David converted to Judaism from another religion or even from no religion. I was using the term in its colloquial sense, to describe someone who becomes religiously observant while in prison, a phenomenon seen among Christian and Muslim prisoners (l'havidil, to differentiate) as well as among Jewish ones.
Mr. Ben-David is not a convert. As the grandson of an Ethiopian Jewish woman, his mother is Jewish and he is Jewish, because Judaism descents through the maternal line. Mr. Ben-David was born a Jew and has always been a Jew, even when he was not religiously observant. That is the unique, dualistic nature of Judaism: we are both a people and a religion. One may either be born into the Jewish nation or enter it by choice, through conversion, but in either case one is a member of the Jewish people. Moshe Levi is my Jewish brother, Amare' Stoudemire is my Jewish brother, and Chaya Gabriela is equally my Jewish sister, the first two by birth and the last by adoption, so to speak.
Rav Ovadiah Yosef, the former Sefardic Chief Rabbi/Rishon L'Tzion of Israel, ruled that Ethiopian Jews are Jews, but owing to their long separation from Am Yisroel, the Jewish people, which appears to predate the Mishna and the Talmud, the sources of halacha, Jewish law, he ruled that they should undergo a symbolic conversion when they arrived in Israel. Mr. Ben-David went through that ceremony, but halachically he was born a Jew.