Matisyahu

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Behind the beard: Matisyahu's the new face of reggae.
Danny Clinch
Behind the beard: Matisyahu's the new face of reggae.

Looks are deceiving. Listen and you'll hear classic reggae bounce and the toasting rap style of Jamaican dancehall, but glance at the album cover and you'll note that Matisyahu (born Mathew Miller) is a Hasidic Jew right down to the broadbrimmed black hat and full, untrimmed beard. After initially rebelling against his Jewish upbringing and dropping out of high school to follow Phish in his teens, Miller returned to school and embraced the Lubavitch Hasidic sect of Judaism, redubbing himself Matisyahu. In the interim, he'd grown infatuated with reggae and hip-hop, and began to rap and perform, eventually assembling a band and releasing his debut, Shake Off the Dust . . . Arise, in 2004. It isn't Jimmy Cliff, but the band's execution is deft, and Miller's vocal brogue and lyrics fashion a surprisingly adept homage to his reggae heroes.

 
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