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When Matisyahu emerged in 2004 with his debut album, Shake Off the Dust...Arise, his musical persona seemed a novelty to some. Here was a Hasidic Jew -- dressed in a black suit with a broad-brimmed black hat worn over a yarmulke, and sporting a full, untrimmed beard -- who nevertheless performed toasting raps about the glories of traditional Judaism over reggae beats in a dancehall style directly from Jamaica. Moreover, he punctuated his performances with stage diving. It may have seemed like a joke at first, but Matisyahu was serious about his craft, and his diverse style soon garnered Grammy nominations, gold record certifications, and a broad audience. Matisyahu was born Matthew Miller on June 30, 1979, in West Chester, Pennsylvania. His family moved to Berkeley, California, which they eventually ditched for White Plains, New York. Miller initially rebelled against his traditional Jewish upbringing, considering himself a Deadhead and a hippie by his early teens. But at the age of 14, during a camping trip in Colorado, he reconciled himself to Judaism and visited Israel shortly thereafter. After returning to White Plains, he dropped out of high school and traveled the country to attend Phish concerts. Back at home again, he agreed to let his parents send him to a wilderness school in Bend, Oregon, where he became enamored of reggae and hip-hop, and began rapping at open-mike competitions. He returned to New York at 19 to attend the New School for Social Research in Manhattan, but also joined the Carlebach Shul, a synagogue where his musical interests were encouraged. Meeting a Lubavitch rabbi, he became interested in the strict Lubavitch Hasidic sect of Judaism and renamed himself Matisyahu. Continuing to perform, Matisyahu assembled a backing band consisting of guitarist Aaron Dugan, bassist Josh Werner, and drummer Jonah David. The group recorded Shake Off the Dust...Arise, which was released by JDub Records in 2004. While touring in support of the album, Matisyahu recorded one of his February 2005 concerts and released the material as Live at Stubb's, which was issued in April courtesy of Or Music before getting picked up for national distribution by Epic Records. Epic reissued it on August 23, 2005, as Matisyahu toured around the country and prepared a second studio album with producer Bill Laswell. The final product, Youth, appeared in March 2006 and was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Reggae Album. A simultaneously released dub version of the album was made available to mail-order customers. Meanwhile, Matisyahu's backing musicians chose to release additional material on their own, adopting the name Roots Tonic for the side project. Roots Tonic Meets Bill Laswell marked the group's debut in May 2006, and by the end of the year the EP/DVD combo No Place to Be was also released. Jonah David dropped out of the band in June 2007, however, and Roots Tonic effectively disbanded, despite the enlistment of replacement drummer Skoota Warner. The entire group (sans David) turned its focus back to Matisyahu instead, and Light marked the singer's third LP upon its release in August 2009. Two years later, Live at Stubb's, Vol. 2 would appear, this time with a companion DVD release. In late 2011, the singer posted a picture with a shaved head and payes cut with the caption, "No more Chassidic reggae superstar." As such, his 2012 effort Spark Seeker was more secular pop, and was produced by Kool Kojak, who had previously worked with Kesha and Nicki Minaj. In 2014, Matisyahu released his fifth LP, Akeda. The tracks had been written while on tour and then recorded at Studio G with producer Stu Brooks. ~ William Ruhlmann
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Stations Featuring


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    Reggae Roots

    Reggae Roots
    1 song

    Jam Bands

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Albums by

Top Songs by

  1.   Song
  2.   One Day
  3.   King Without a Crown
  4.   Miracle
  5.   Running Away
  6.   Buffalo Soldier
  7.   Motivate
  8.   Time of Your Song
  9.   Sunshine
  10.   Dispatch the Troops
  11.   Jerusalem
  12.   Youth
  13.   Live Like a Warrior
  14.   Message in a Bottle
  15.   Shade from the Sun
  16.   Indestructible
  17.   Tzama L'cha Nafshi/Got No Water
  18.   Chop 'Em Down
  19.   Carry Me
  20.   So High So Low
  21.   Surrender
  22.   Open the Gates
  23.   Struggla
  24.   On Nature
  25.   Smash Lies
  26.   Spark Seekers
  27.   Late Night in Zion
  28.   Lord Raise Me Up
  29.   Close My Eyes
  30.   Wanderer
  31.   Vow of Silence
  32.   Broken Car
  33.   Champion
  34.   Shine on You
  35.   Summer Wind
  36.   I Believe In Love
  37.   Fire of Freedom
  38.   Crossroads
  39.   Circle of Life
  40.   We Will Walk
  41.   Thunder
  42.   What I'm Fighting For
  43.   Fire of Heaven/Altar of Earth
  44.   Short Nigun
  45.   Sea to Sea
  46.   Making of "Spark Seeker" [Commentary]
  47.   Obstacles
  48.   Reservoir
  49.   Black Heart
  50.   Watch the Walls Melt Down
  51.   Ayeka (Teach Me to Love)
  52.   Bal Shem Tov
  53.   Mist Rising
  54.   For You
  55.   Darkness into Light
  56.   Ancient Lullaby
  57.   Shalom/Saalam
  58.   WP
  59.   Refuge
  60.   Warrior
  61.   Aish Tamid
  62.   Beat Box
  63.   Back to the Old
  64.   Step out into the Light
  65.   Crash Landings
  66.   Akeda
  67.   Hard Way
  68.   Confidence
  69.   Star on the Rise
  70.   Tel Aviv'n
  71.   Breathe Easy
  72.   Searchin
  73.   Temple
  74.   Silence