_(excerpted from original article)_
Matisyahu is a 24-year-old reggae phenom out of Crown Heights. When I meet him coming back from a Hanukkah get-together with his family, it’s a quarter to midnight in Grand Central Station, and he’s got a menorah in a plastic supermarket bag. Our photographer asks the 6’4″ MC if we can get a picture of him standing on line at a hot-dog stand. “Thing is, it’s not kosher,” explains Matisyahu. “It’s dope that it says â€˜Shofar’ on it, though.” His soft-spoken accent, equal parts b-boy and yeshiva bocher, belies his New York upbringing—he grew up a Reconstructionist Jew in White Plains. But when he gets onstage, he delivers flawless dancehall rhymes. At 18, he had a moderately successful beatbox act in Oregon; after it collapsed, he moved to New York to go to college. His debut album, _Shake Off the Dust_, Arise is due in April on JDub Records.
*Heeb: So when did you start doing reggae as â€˜Matisyahu’?*
Matisyahu: Last winter. I’d been in yeshiva for almost a year, and I hadn’t done any music at all. For a year. Basically, I hadn’t listened to music, I hadn’t played music, I hadn’t written anything new. And they did a Union Square Hanukkah festival, lighting the menorah. The same shaliach who I became religious through, a friend of mine, he knew I did this kind of stuff, so he asked me to come one night. I called a guitar player, along with a drummer, we set up and it was awesome. And from that I started the band.
*Do you prefer roots or dancehall?*
I like a mixture of the two. I like rootsy tracks, but with dancehall energy. I don’t like that overdone beat, you know, [beatboxing] with a heavy sound to it. I like more of a rootsy kind of organic, real melodic kinda feel to it. But I like the deliverance of the lyrics to be punchy, you know?
*Is your music always religious-themed? Do you ever, say, talk about yourself?*
Yeah, well, I mean, the whole thing is about myself. The whole concept of this music is about…like the name of the album, _Shake Off the Dust_, _Arise_, is all about overcoming, it’s all about beating the negative forces. A person has negative forces and positive forces, and it’s all about that war.