92ZEW proudly presents the return of Matisyahu live at Soul Kitchen, Dauphin Street downtown
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.