On paper, Matisyahu (Hebrew for Matthew) sounds like a gimmick and a novelty. His real name is Matthew Miller, and after growing up in the suburbs outside of New York City with mild interest in his Hebrew studies, he became a Hasidic Jew in his early 20s. Now, he mixes his religious lifestyle and beliefs with his love of reggae and hip hop. The results of this noteworthy and unorthodox juxtaposition are surprisingly pleasing. Hardcore fans of Caribbean music should respect his vocal chops as he sings and raps with a passionate flow. More Americanized listeners are likely to take notice of his mic skills because of the clarity in his diction and use of traditional English (as opposed to the patois in most Caribbean music), which allows his repetitive statements of purpose and spiritual affirmations to quickly and satisfyingly stick in your head. Rock elements also bleed into the music occasionally and can recall the genre bending, chill-out grooves of 311, The Police and Sublime, plus the music-with-a-message platform of The Clash. Above all, though, he is a reggae artist from a country that’s embraced very few artists in the genre. Matisyahu is likely to be the exception to the rule. His memorable songs and admirable convictions could soon make him the second biggest reggae artist of all time in the U.S. (far behind the incomparable Bob Marley, of course).
Heavy Rotation tracks: “Fire of Heaven/Altar of Earth” (Top 20 Songs of 2006 Candidate); “Youth” (Top 20 Songs of 2006 Candidate)
Medium Rotation tracks: “Jerusalem“; “Late Night In Zion“; “Indestructible“
Grade: A- (Top 20 Albums of 2006 Candidate)
(As posted 4/3/06 on davepowersmusic.com)
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