Matisyahu, the Jewish rapper, often takes the stage in full Hasidic regalia. But yesterday, the man born Matthew Paul Miller opted for khakis, a powder-blue suit jacket and a fedora, soon removed to display a yarmulke underneath. The inclusion of a percussionist in his five-piece band elevates Matisyahu's reggae from the usual monotonous beats, and his rapid-fire rapping streams in a mellifluous flow.
Songs such as "Youth" and "Time of Your Song" contain uplifting messages about controlling one's destiny and battling self-destruction, and Matisyahu makes it obvious that he takes his religion seriously.
He introduced "Got No Water" as a cover song written by King David and began by chanting in what sounded to be Yiddish.
The 10,000-plus people attending his set waved their arms in the air appreciatively, seemingly taking something from his message.
Matis addresses the crowd.
"People are asking...
'Am I a Chassid, am I not a Chassid?'
...to that, all I have to say is this....
Tzoooooma L'chaaaa Naaaafshii...."
His refusal to get caught up in the meddle, and resisting a "screw everyone" attitude is, well, expected from him.
A creative artist with a message that is not his own.
Supported and cherished by the community he seems to represent.
This community then feels like they own him.
They talk about him to all their friends. They try and get him to do shows.
“Matisyahu? Oh yea, he’s Lubavitch.”
All of a sudden, everyone is so proud to be Chabad.
Then, an unverified quote rocks the community.
Matisyahu doesn’t only identify with Chabad?
What? He feels boxed in?
Then, something strange happens.
In the name of Chabad, people slander his name.
In the name of Chassidisheit,, they judge.
Believing that someone’s famousness gives permission for such harsh gossip and misguided conclusions, people get a little crazy.
Sure, people care, and are trying to protect. But the method is crass, and the approach self-defeating.
If the non-Chabad and “irreligious” people affected by Matisyahu’s music could hear the folks from Crown Heights speak on the matter, they’d be appalled, even turned off.
When a Queens college student recently asked me, "Whats the deal?" he wasn't asking about Matisyahu, but the Chabad community's out-of-line reaction and embellishment on a simple statement.
So, it appears that Matisyahu’s feelings of being “boxed in” were more than warranted.
I don’t know all the facts, and I certainly can’t tell the future.
However, one thing seems pretty clear to me.
While Matisyahu is being falsely accused of separating from the Chabad movement, it’s very clear who’s abandoning whom.
No, it was not a Mitzvah Tank.
It was Matisyahu's tour bus.
Well, so yea, it was a Mitzvah Tank.
As part of his "Unity Tour" with the band 311, he gave an energized show - or experience - to 15,000 people last night. The show tonight was "one huge farbrengen." In between songs, he spoke about "Chabad chassidus." To a crowd of thousands of youth, he explained the concept of tzimtzum, and how it happens that we come to exist in a world so great. He sang niggunim. Tzoma L'cha Nafshi. He swayed throughout. And afterwards, he gathered yidden for maariv.
On and offstage, Matisyahu's presence is humble, enlightening, and real.
You know, there are some things you just can't fake. It would be impossible to be a fiery light of inspiration and meaning to thousands of people day after day...unless you're light is coming from a higher place.
You know, Matisyahu's spiritual and religious standing is really none of our business. But, since he's in the spotlight, and holds the hearts of many, people care to speculate. I myself, in my die hard support, am doing that right now.
But then there's people who are just bored.
You know, when you see someone doing something good and making a positive impact on the world (something that, since yesterday, I'm convinced Matisyahu is doing), all you need to to is add fuel to the flame.
Or just step aside.
I have much to say, but I'll let Matisyahu speak.
The following personal message was written for Matisyahu's fans. As the sun was setting yesterday, I helped my brother (Matisyahu's current Street Team Leader) hand out fliers. The words on the paper are straight from Matisyahu's pen - not botched by a newswoman or twisted by an ill-motived Chabadnik.
Thousands of people pocketed Matisyahu's insights, and hence a clear message from the Rebbe. Handing out the fliers, I didn't feel like I was doing something for a cool musical artist. Like Matisyahu, I was doing something much bigger.
Message from Matisyahu
Redemptions Coming Like A Runaway Truck
Week 4 and it’s starting to feel like Groundhog Day. Anyone ever feel like that? If you thought, (like I did) that the way out of getting a 9 to 5 was either become a mystic living in the hills or a rock star, well you’re wrong. Sorry to ruin anyone’s imagination of what it might be like to travel around the country and play music, but every amphitheatre across