You Should Know…Jamey Roberti

Jamey Roberti is a white man with short hair and classes wearing a blue suit and smiling.
Jamey Roberti | Courtesy of Jamey Roberti

Jamey Roberti spent much of his adolescence on a skateboard, daydreaming that OutKast, Jay-Z and MF Doom provided the soundtrack to his choreography of ollies and kickturns.

Influenced by the rap and hip-hop music popular in his Allentown hometown, Roberti, 35, fell in love with the genre and writing music. After years of daydreaming, Roberti has the opportunity to bring a fantasy to fruition. As a 2023 Tribe 12 fellow, the Point Breeze resident is hoping to finish writing and produce his debut hip-hop album, including songs detailing his Jewish upbringing in a predominantly Christian neighborhood.

“The goal is A, to really just to show a rapper, who is also Jewish, existing and existing proud,” Roberti said. “But secondly, a couple of the songs are more specifically about some things that weigh on my heart, applying to Jewishness.”

The musician raps under his stage name Numoon, an homage to the stage name conventions of the late ‘90s, when artists took a fresh take on an already existing name or idea. In some ways, Roberti is trying to accomplish something similar in his music.

One of Roberti’s songs, “Peace in Crown Heights,” is about his reckoning of his love of hip-hop with Ye’s, formerly Kanye West’s, outspoken antisemitism in December. The title of the song is a reference to the 1991 riots that took place in the Brooklyn neighborhood between Black and Jewish residents.

“Bridging the gap of understanding between Jews and non-Jewish Black folk was something weighing on my heart,” he said.

Roberti has, at times, had a fraught relationship with his Jewish identity. Born to a Catholic father and Israeli Jewish mother, he grew up culturally Jewish with a strong connection to God but without a formal Jewish education. When visiting Jewish spaces like a Jewish day school, Roberti didn’t feel Jewish enough, but among his friends, many of whom were non-Jewish, Black or Latino, Roberti encountered ignorance about his Jewish heritage.

“I was always the only Jew in the room,” he said. “And a lot of times, sometimes the only white person in the room, too.”

Roberti recalls “bittersweet memories” growing up Jewish in Allentown. His father introduced him to Weird Al Yankovic, the closest Roberti had to a Jewish rap icon, and his mother took him to Israel during some summers, where Roberti was exposed to Israeli psychedelic rock, which he hopes to incorporate into his music. While Roberti didn’t try to escape his Jewish identity, he didn’t walk into a synagogue on his own volition until he was in his 30s.

With a bachelor’s degree in musicology from Bucknell University and a master’s in higher education administration, Roberti’s journey to making music was also circuitous. He worked as a music journalist and writing tutor, among other jobs, before becoming a recruitment coordinator at Starbucks last May. But despite professional interests in other areas, life kept taking Roberti back to music. After Roberti broke his ankle three times while skateboarding, he began to write music in high school. Three years ago, Roberti created a YouTube channel, NumoonTalks, to upload his works in progress. 

As a member of Tribe 12’s newest fellowship class, Roberti has once again been allowed to not only focus on his music but to connect more deeply with his Jewish roots.

Tribe 12 gave Roberti accountability to work on his project, even when he feels drained after a full day of work, as well as a coach to help provide musical resources. But beyond his creative endeavors, Roberti simply wants to connect with a group of like-minded Jewish people, some who share his love for hip-hop, and others who had complex Jewish upbringings like he did.

“I do want to get my message out there in my venture, if I leave this with some Jewish friends, I’m like, ‘OK, that’s good enough for me,’” Roberti said.

“It’s the first time in my life where I’ve been in a community of Jewish peers,” he added. “And I’m realizing the importance of that.”

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