Not only did a busker in a Maui coffee shop not realize the dude who was harmonizing with him on Matisyahu‘s “One Day” was the actual Matisyahu, but according to the reggae rap singer, he was worried about messing up the dude’s flow.
“I was there for a couple of shows and we went out on the day of the Maui show, and dude was in there playing and he started to play ‘One Day,’ so I thought, ‘Cool, he noticed me and is playing my song,'” Matis told Billboard on Wednesday (Aug. 3) about the chance encounter he had this weekend, just hours before taking the stage at the annual MayJah RayJah Music Festival.
“I’m standing right next to him and then I realize he doesn’t know it’s me, and my bass player was like, ‘You should sing with him,’ but I don’t typically do that kind of thing,” Matisyahu said. “If he doesn’t know it’s me, he’ll think I’m some random dude trying to steal his thunder and I didn’t want to mess up his game.”
But, at some point Matis did start singing along, and they had a nice harmonizing moment. It’s clear from a video posted by the rapper’s bass player, Stu Brooks, that the busker never realized who his companion was. “Afterwards, he was like, ‘You have a beautiful voice, man,'” recalled Matisyahu, who looks way different these days from when he started out more than a decade ago as a Hasidic rapper with a more traditionally orthodox Jewish look that included a long beard and a yarmulke. In the video, he’s traded that look for a loose flannel shirt, a backward baseball hat, stringy blond hair and sandals.
“I was like, ‘Hey, you know who wrote that song, right?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, Matis.’ I told him, ‘I wrote it.'” The street performer was confused until Matisyahu outed himself. After the reveal, the duo chilled for a bit and Matisyahu gave his new friend tickets for that night’s show. He said he realizes that unless people are hard-core fans they might not recognize him these days, which he kind of likes.
“I like being able to chill and be in the background now,” he said. “I didn’t always want to be the center of attention. Sometimes I’ll hang in the crowd at my shows and people won’t recognize me.” As for his new biggest fan, Matisyahu said he’s been in touch with the man’s brother and sister and they said that he’s “pretty stoked right now” about the video with more than 1.5 million views, since he’s a struggling musician and the clip has built buzz on the island. Before their encounter, Matis said he dropped a dollar in the busker’s ukulele case in appreciation of the appropriately island-flavored music he was playing. “That was before all this went down,” the “King Without a Crown” singer explained about his donation.
For now, Matisyahu is continuing his summer tour with 311 and on Wednesday he was getting ready to drop the video for his new song with Mihali from the band Twiddle, “Storm Tossed.” He’s also prepping his latest batch of songs for studio sessions booked this fall.