"You're all that I have and you're all that I need / Each and every day I pray to get to know you please / Want to be close to you, yes I'm so hungry / You're like water for my soul when it gets thirsty"—from "King Without a Crown"
So, how does a guy become the world's biggest Jewish reggae star? That would be Matisyahu, whose major label breakthroughs—Live at Stubb's and Youth—both recently sat on several Billboard charts, including the Top 200, reggae and digital sales tallies.
But how did he do it?
Some may consider Matisyahu's rise to stardom a direct result of the novelty factor—the Orthodox Jewish look of a long, untrimmed beard, no-frills black suit and yarmulke. All of these, mixed with his rapping skills and stage antics (he beat-boxes and stage dives, among other things), make for an intriguing, if not fairly un-orthodox, combination.
But Matisyahu is the real deal, not only referencing God, Judaism and traditional values in his music, but maintaining a lifestyle consistent with his message. He observes Passover, won't play gigs on the Sabbath (in his case, that means Friday nights), won't do one-night stands, and won't act out in ways that contradict his beliefs.
"Marijuana is not mentioned in the Torah," the 26-year-old singer told Blender after being asked about the inherent connection between reggae and reefer. "But there is a law that you're not supposed to do anything that can damage yourself. So I abstain."
This legalism has less to do with stringent regulations than a newfound adherence to personal convictions. Born Matthew Miller in West Chester, Pennsylvania, he rebelled against Judaism as a teenager, only to embrace it as part of his identity after a camping trip to Colorado and a ...1