When you come on the scene as a young man who performs Dancehall Reggae mixed with Rap and other genres, and do it as a bearded, Orthodox Hasidic Jew who touts his spirituality in his grooves, you will be noticed by believers and non-believers alike.
Matisyahu was unique in that regard, though it is true that Jamaican Reggae music has always told tales going back to King David, albeit from a Rastafarian point of view.
The problem was that Matisyahu’s beliefs evolved (or devolved depending on your frame of reference) and a few years ago he shaved his trademark Hasidic beard. He did so because he found that he had problems with certain aspects of conservative Jewish orthodoxy, bringing forth the expected consternation. Bob Dylan caught similar flak during the late-1970s when he released his religious-themed albums such as Slow Train Coming.
Ultimately, Matisyahu was just following his muse and since then he has further expanded his musical horizons as a clean-shaven toaster with a universal outlook. His latest album is called Akeda and it finds Matisyahu relying less on Reggae and more on layered World Pop beats, sounding more like Maroon 5 with a deeper groove and socially conscious lyrics. He still throws down some Reggae on Akeda, however, with the songs “Black Heart” and “Watch The Walls Melt Down.”
plays at Bogart's Friday, Sept. 26. Find tickets/more info here.