When Matisyahu first broke onto the scene in 2004 with his debut album, “Shake Off The Dust... Arise,” the world was not quite sure what to make of him. Donning a wide-brimmed hat, full unkempt beard and traditional yarmulke, Matisyahu was officially the world's first mainstream Jewish rapper.
His vision of spreading Jewish orthodox themes on national television through singing and rapping was unprecedented. He rolled out his message through reggae, dancehall and hip hop, which left him in a league of his own. As unorthodox as it was for a Hasidic Jew to break into pop culture in the early 2000s, maybe that's exactly what the scene needed.
During a time when popular music was defined by club-bangers from the likes of Outkast, Usher and Lil John, how much more “turning up in the club” did we need? If you ask me, enough was enough.
Enter Matisyahu. Now 15 years later, his debut record, “Shake Off The Dust... Arise,” as well as his second record, “Youth,” have garnered him a gold record certification, millions of plays on Spotify, along with global recognition and respect within an ever-evolving music industry. What may have seemed like a joke at first has ultimately proved that Matisyahu is here to stay.
As of late, Matisyahu shows have taken a more improvisational route. With many fans asking him, “What song is this?” or “What album is this song from?,” his answer, time and time again, is simple: “It's not on any album. It is the song of that moment, and that moment only.” This improvisational mastery stems from a turning point in his career when he shared the stage with iconic improvisational frontman Trey Anastasio of jam-band royalty, Phish. Matisyahu and Anastasio went back to back leading the 80,000-person crowd through two completely improvised and unrehearsed tracks of musical magic at Bonnaroo, one of the largest music festivals in the U.S.
As time has gone on, and the music of Matisyahu has continued to evolve, his gaze has shifted away from the religion that raised him. Despite shifting his musical focus away from his religion and more through a lens of positivity and love, Matisyahu has stayed true to himself through his music. Few things are a given at a Matisyahu show, however, three always ring kosher: His music will uplift your spirit, enlighten your soul and set your worries free on the dancefloor.
This year has been a massive year yet again for the renowned rapper and vocalist. Over the past 11 months, Matisyahu has performed dozens of shows from coast to coast while selling out a majority along the way.
Tickets are still available but moving fast for his show at Belly Up on Thursday. The show will also feature an opening set by Bedouin Soundclash starting at 9 p.m. Tickets available at bellyupaspen.com.