B&E: Matisyahu

Breaking & Entering: A look at acts breaking at radio and retail and entering Billboard charts. This week: Matisyahu.

Profiling acts breaking at radio and/or retail and entering Billboard's charts.

Reggae, hip-hop and Judaism have found a melting pot in the music of Matisyahu, a Hasidic dancehall artist whose music combines spirituality and social consciousness with head-bobbing beats. Though his music delves into religious themes, Matisyahu's hip-hop skills and Caribbean sounds appeal to a wide audience.

"Live at Stubbs," Matisyahu's latest 12-track CD was recorded in Austin, Texas. in February 2005. Released April 19 on JDub Records/Or Music, the album features three unreleased songs and video content in addition to the live performance. "Live at Stubbs" debuted at No. 33 last week on Billboard's Top Heatseekers chart.

From the catchy guitar at the start of "Chop 'Em Down" and the octave-soaring vocals that open "King Without a Crown" to the tight sounds of the jam session in "Beat Box," 25-year-old Matisyahu showcases a variety of talents on the album. Perhaps most notable is his voice, which rarely belies the fact that he is not a Jamaican-born reggae singer. Even when singing lyrics taken from Jewish texts there is a hip-hop styling to his flow.

Born Matthew Miller, Matisyahu had difficulty staying focused on his religious studies as a kid and instead turned to beat-boxing, bongo drums and a laidback hippie lifestyle. That life took him to Colorado and then to Israel where he found a strong connection to God and his Jewish identity.

When Matisyahu returned home he started studying reggae and hip-hop. He began exploring the power of song in Hasidic Judaism and regularly performed songs and spoken word at open mic nights. During this time, Matisyahu met a rabbi who introduced him to the Lubavitch Hasidic lifestyle, which eventually became a large influence on both his life and his art and led to his debut album, "Shake Off the Dust...Arise," released in 2004 by JDub.

Matisyahu is in the middle of a North America tour that featured a stop at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin in March and an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live in April.

The video for "King Without a Crown," has also made its way onto the "Dean's List" at mtvU.com among mainstream artists like Green Day and My Chemical Romance.

Matisyahu is slated as a featured performer at New York's eighth annual Reggae Carifest. Slated for July 10, the event will also feature appearances by Elephant Man, Capleton, Buju Banton and Bounty Killer.

Artist: www.hasidicreggae.com/
Labels: http://www.jdubrecords.org/, www.ormusic.com/