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Matisyahu: Religion, Reggae, Rap, and Rock

Matisyahu is not only a successful musician, but more importantly, he is an iconic leader. Since 2004, when he released his premiere album Shake Off the Dust… Arise, this Hasidic Jewish musician blends religion, reggae, rap and rock into his music in order to preach his morals to a diverse range of people.

Born in West Chester, Pa., Matisyahu was raised as a Reconstructionist Jew and lived in White Plains, N.Y. for the majority of his childhood. In 1996, he participated in a semester-long Jewish heritage program in Israel. While there, he fell in love with the cultures of Judaism and adopted the practices of Orthodox Judaism.

In Hebrew, the name Matisyahu is also pronounced as Mattathias, who was a Jewish priest during the second century B.C.E. who led the Israelites into a revolution against the Syrian Greeks. He stood up for his people and made a large contribution toward gaining the freedom of the Israelites. Mattathias preached encouraging words to his people, historically defining him as a righteous leader of his people. More than 20 centuries have passed and Matisyahu’s words are continuing to be heard throughout the world in the form of his musical lyrics.

Matisyahu diversifies his musical styles as a method to preach his lyrics to all listeners. In the course of practicing Orthodox Judaism, he gained extensive knowledge on the religion’s traditions and cultures, which he incorporates into his lyrics. Matisyahu’s Hasidic tone combined with reggae produces a distinct and fascinating sound that catches the attention of many listeners.

Integrating the broader genres of rap and rock into his music extends Matisyahu’s fan base even further. In addition to the clever strategy of diversifying his playing styles, his lyrics inspire people to be the best person they can be.

On Nov. 2, Matisyahu performed live at The Venue at UCF. His music created a positive and inspirational atmosphere that flowed through the building. After emerging onto the stage, Matisyahu sat down in front of the microphone and jokingly pulled his cell phone out of his pocket saying, “It is probably a good idea to turn off my phone.” After performing for about half an hour, he gave the audience the opportunity to ask him questions.

One student in the audience asked, “What is your purpose of your life?” Matisyahu responded, “I believe that I am here to be a good father to my two kids and to inspire people with my music.”

Our generation is in control of our own destiny. We must take advantage of all opportunities and always act to the best of our abilities. Matisyahu’s lyrics motivate us to optimize our actions today so that we may build a better future.

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