I think it was over a decade ago when I was introduced to the magic that is Matisyahu. His track “Beat Box – Live,” a freestyle beat box track from his live album “Live at Stubb’s” absolutely blew me away. Before that beat boxing was treated as almost a joke to me, but after hearing this track in my high school computer lab for the first time, my opinion changed drastically. Now, I know there are probably more technically skilled beat boxers out there, but this track really was an introduction into something so incredibly different from anything I had been listening to at the time. When I heard Matisyahu was coming to town, I had to get my chance to cover his show.
Hailing from West Chester, Pennsylvania. Matthew Miller, better known by his stage name Matisyahu, which means “Gift of God” in Hebrew, had a very unique start to his hip-hop career. If you have been following Matisyahu, you may remember him as one of the most unique artists in rap. At the very beginning of his rap career Miller was actually a devout Orthodox Jew, whose religious devotion grew at the very same time as his study of reggae music. He was known for playing all of his shows in orthodox Jewish attire, and strictly observing the tenants of judiasm while touring with his incredibly unique reggae hip-hop infused with hazzan style songful prayer. Today, Matisyahu is looking drastically different. The beard is gone, the clothes are whatever he wants, but the music still remains as soulful as ever.
Currently on his Broken Crowns tour, Matisyahu was joined by Common Kings at First Ave to perform a concert that was all about the good vibes. Opening up with their laidback music, the band with roots in Hawaii, Fiji, Samoa & Orange County played summer anthems for their entire portion of the night which included their big hit “Wade In Your Water” and fantastic guitar work by Taumata Grey. Their set meandered from laidback summer tunes, to laidback reggae, to even a few guitar covers all over the gamut.
Next up was Matisyahu, came out dressed for the weather, with a full coat, beanie and sunglasses. His set stayed very mellow, with him mostly sticking to the middle of the stage. However, when the jacket came off, so did the reservations, the set continued to get more and more energetic. Songs like “King Without A Crown” and “Sunshine” resonated through main room of First Ave. Beat Box breakdowns were also a staple of the whole show, with Matisyahu often going into minutes of straight beat boxing freestyle sessions. It was definitely a departure from most shows, that tend to stick to at least some sort of script. Large portions of the show were completely freestyle.
The show ended with an encore that brought Common Kings back out to the stage, where they performed “Broken Crowns” with Matisyahu, the namesake of their tour. After that, a lot of the crowd believed the show to be over and some looked like they were considering just leaving altogether after such a long lull in the action. Then, the notability absent “One Day” came on which naturally made the crowd go absolutely wild.
It took over 10 years, but I finally got to see an artist that played a role in the beginning of my absolute love for music. It’s a feeling that’s kind of hard to describe, but it feels a lot like nostalgia. However, I can definitely say there exists no artist quite like Matisyahu. I mean how many Ex-Orthodox Jewish Reggae Rappers do you know? I thought not.