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Mathew Miller ran away from his non-orthodox Jewish home in White Plains, NY at 17 to follow Phish across the country, then found himself shipped off to a Wilderness Camp by his parents, and finally enrolled in college in NYC. Out of this has emerged Matisyahu Miller, a Hasidic Jewish White Reggae Rapping Phenomena. It’s a lot to take in and even more to believe, but it’s true and it’s not just a gimmick. 


For most of us the occasional cross-over Christian band to mainstream is expected and even some bands with Jewish members have been successful. Kiss is a big one. But Matis is different. He is not a cross-over and he is not just a rapper that happens to be Jewish. Matisyahu is everything he is and never just one of them.


Yes, he is a rapper, but he raps in reggae. And why reggae? 


“I got into Bob Marley,” he has said. “I got into reggae music and it just spoke to me and it just became natural to me that when I started singing, started putting together lyrics, it just came out that way. That’s what turned me on, you know? I was into hip hop and was turned on to psychedelic rock and that stuff too, but I always felt a really strong connection to reggae. Everywhere I went I had headphones on. I was listening to sort of like the conscious dance hall stuff, and I had a PA system in my apartment. I used to buy these instrumental hip hop and reggae tapes and turn them all the way up on these JBL speakers. That’s kind of how my style developed. It was never a conscious decision that I’m going to try to do this style. It was just that’s what was my love.” 


Yes, he is Jewish, but he doesn’t preach in his songs. But one thing is true; he is exactly what you wouldn’t expect to work, but it does. He may not be selling out the biggest venues around, but he is putting on some of the best shows around. Matis has built a massive underground following with his inspirational words and mesmerizing live performances. His songs have meaning and an uplifting message. With so much ugliness in rap and hip hop, it’s people like Matis that are taking it back to it’s roots and writing lyrics that men something, like in his song King Without a Crown.


Matis explained to StarPolish, “King Without a Crown…basically the idea is that at the end of the day, a person knows that they have faults, no matter what a person pretends or acts like. When they get down to their core, they realize they’re just human and therefore, they’re shaky. It’s like your whole ideology, your philosophy about life, even your beliefs, could be wrong. Who knows what’s what? You’re just kind of thrown into the mix and you have to figure it out.” 


“You try to be a good person and you try to do what’s right, but sometimes you make moves and you don’t know…At the end of the day you have to do the best job that you can do, but you’re living your life according to these laws that we believe to be the will of God. Remember, this Torah has been around for thousands of years. It’s like an anchor. It’s like strapping yourself onto a rock and I was realizing that gives you so much confidence…I think I’m connected to this ancient thing, which is above even nature, above even reality and no one can knock me off of that. That’s kind of the idea when I say, ‘A king without a crown/You keep falling down.’” 


One thing that sets him apart from the mainstream world of music in general is his devotion to his faith. Matis does not play Friday shows or Saturday matinees because of the Sabbath, and never will. No matter how hard it is, he only eats kosher food, even while on tour. And he doesn’t use curse words in this lyrics. “Reggae is very conscious, very uplifting so you won’t find a lot of curse words in it,” he says.


Some may seem him as a religious man preaching through music but Matis himself doesn’t. “I don’t see myself like a Christian rock band or a Jewish rock band. I don’t see it that way at all, because music was such a strong part of my life before even religion was.”


Matisyahu is a whole new type of artist. One who makes his own buzz and finds his own fans. Matis is a Gen X success story using everything made available to him to get his message out. Everything from Myspace to Twitter to Youtube have a Matisyahu site and with that, Matis has been able to bring his fusion of Judaism and reggae music to millions of new listeners. 


His first release on Epic Records, Live at Stubbs, a highly successful live concert recording from the famous venue in Austin TX, has sold nearly 700,000 copies and is certified Gold. Matisyahu drew upon the plethora of experiences that led him to a career pinnacle on his sophomore studio album, Youth, which contains the hit single King without a Crown. A compelling mix of ancient and modern sounds and ideas, Youth also reached Gold certification.

You can catch Matisyahu on his Light tour. 


For more on the magical Matisyahu, go to / Issue 107 - September 2018
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