Benjamin Melendez, also known as “Yellow Benjy,” was the gang leader of The Ghetto Brothers in the 1970’s Bronx. Descended from Puerto Rican conversos (or anusim), Melendez grew up watching his parents practice Jewish rituals in secret, and only discovered and reclaimed his Jewish heritage as an adult.

Melendez played a pivotal role in creating an historic peace treaty among warring Bronx gangs. This not only mitigated violence between them, but also resulted in the blending of musical styles popular among the various gangs, ultimately leading to the birth of modern hip hop.

00:00 Intro
00:36 Crypto Jewish childhood experience
01:35 Childhood experience in the South Bronx
02:23 1970s South Bronx gangs
02:58 Leader of the Ghetto Brothers
04:04 Acts of service and young leaders-to-be
05:00 Commitment to peace
06:03 The gangs meeting and peace treaty
06:31 Fusion of music styles
07:17 The birth of modern hip hop
08:00 Benjy Melendez’s return to Judaism
08:37 Benjy Melendez’s legacy

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Image and footage credits:
Mac Miller
Action Bronson
Aubrey Marcus
The Island Def Jam Music Group
Cash Money Records
Doja Cat
Saboteur Digital
City Lore
Eric Wingate
Ric Burns
King Klast
Pacific Arts Entertainment
Plain Sight productions
Perry Kretz
Can You Dig It (Pete Chelala, Bryan Master)
Joe Conzo Jr.
United Bronx Parents Archive
John Lennon
Librado Romero
Alejandro Olivera
Julian Voloj
David Gonzales
Executive Producer:
— Barry Skolnick
Co-Executive Producer:
— Shmuel Katz
Translation credits:
Portuguese: Saymon Pires,, @safralivraria

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