Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Matisyahu & 311 @ the Roy 8/12

Matisyahu, the first ever Hasidic Reggae superstar, can ryhme as fast as anyone out there nowadays, and his lyrics are more intelligent and uplifting to boot. He sings about his faith, to be sure, (he converted to the traditional and strict Hasidic sect only within the past few years) but his lyrics are not exclusively Jewish, even though he does at times rock the Hebrew. He conveys a sense of spirituality that people can relate to, even if they do not consider themselves religious, and I think that has a lot to do with why he has become so popular in the last couple of years.

Matis, which is the Hebrew translation for Matthew, came through Minneapolis with 311 as part of te "Unity Tour" last Sunday night, and although he was the opening act, I was just as excited to see Matis as I was about 311. He has non-faith specific lyrics that at times seem to be as much Rastafarian as Jewish. Old Testament imagery abounds, with Temples, Mt. Zion, fire, Babylon, and the struggle against opression all recurring themes in his lyrics. It is all very positive, which is what instantly turned me on to it when my youngest brither Colin gave me the CD "Live at Stubbs" (Austin TX baby!!). Unfortunately, a positive and hopeful message is a rarity in today's self-indulgent bling hip-hop culture. Matis is actually younger than I am and, oddly enough, is a former Phish tourkid. I remember reading a while back about his conversion, which was in part brought on by a feeling of emptiness and confusion associated with living on the road.

Out in the audience at the show, we happened to be right next to Mark Murphy from Wookiefoot, who was looking on in obvious admiration at Matis. I was about to ask him if he was gonna hop onstage and do a song with Matis, but I didn't. Turns out, Mark and JoJo (the other Wookie frontman) will be heading to Red Rocks outdoor ampithatre in Colorado to perform with Matis. Fortunately, one local artist did participate in the evening's show. Yoni, a very talented MC, of the fantastic but now defunct Minneapolis band Pleasure Pause did a verse or two on one of the songs, and he also threw down on some beatboxing and rhymes on the "Live at Stubbs" CD.

When Bri and I went to Lollapalooza in Chicago last summer (also early August), one of the shows we were most excited for was Matisyahu, and he did not dissapoint. it was clear then that he had established himself as a powerful voice in the music scene when thousands upon thousands of people showed up to his show one the biggest stage of the festival. here he is signing autographs after the Lollapalooza show. I thought that was a pretty fucking righteous thing to do. There were hundreds of kids waiting to get his autograph, but we just took his picture instead.

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Here are the lyrics to Matis' first hit song, "King Without a Crown". It seemingly came out of nowhere, taking everyone by surprise, then it blew up on MTV2 and put him on the map.

"What's this feeling?
My love will rip a hole in the ceiling
Givin' myself to you from the essence of my being
Sing to my God all these songs of love and healing
Want Moshiach now so it's time we start revealing

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
I want to be close to you, yes I'm so hungry
You're like water for my soul when it gets thirsty
Without you there's no me
You're the air that I breathe
Sometimes the world is dark and I just can't see
With these, demons surround all around to bring me down to negativity
But I believe, yes I believe, I said I believe
I'll stand on my own two feet
Won't be brought down on one knee
Fight with all of my might and get these demons to flee
Hashem's rays fire blaze burn bright and I believe
Hashem's rays fire blaze burn bright and I believe
Out of darkness comes light, twilight unto the heights
Crown Heights burnin' up all through till twilight
Said, thank you to my God, now I finally got it right
And I'll fight with all of my heart, and all a' my soul, and all a' my might

Me no want no sinsemilla.
That would only bring me down
Burn away my brain no way my brain is to compound
Torah food for my brain let it rain till I drown
Let the blessings come down

Strip away the layers and reveal your soul
Got to give yourself up and then you become whole
You're a slave to yourself and you don't even know
You want to live the fast life but your brain moves slow
If you're trying to stay high then you're bound to stay low
You want God but you can't deflate your ego
If you're already there then there's nowhere to go
If you're cup's already full then its bound to overflow
If you're drowning in the water's and you can't stay afloat
Ask Hashem for mercy and he'll throw you a rope
You're looking for help from God you say he couldn't be found
Searching up to the sky and looking beneath the ground
Like a King without his Crown
Yes, you keep fallin' down
You really want to live but can't get rid of your frown
Tried to reach unto the heights and wound bound down on the ground
Given up your pride and the you heard a sound
Out of night comes day and out of day comes light
Nullified to the One like sunlight in a ray,
Makin' room for his love and a fire gone blaze

Reelin' him in
Where ya been
Where ya been
Where ya been for so long
It's hard to stay strong been livin' in galus (exile) for 2000 years strong
Where ya been for so long
Been livin in this exhile for too long."

(Personally, I'd take the sinsemillia over the Torah, but to each Hasidic rapper his own.)

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311 has one of the most loyal and serious fan bases of any band I have ever seen. My brother Kevin has been one of these fans for many years. In fact, Rage Against the Machine and 311 are his favorites, and I am lucky to get to see both of tose bands with him this very month.

I saw them once at the second or third 10,000 Lakes Festival, and once at The Roy Wilkins Auditorium when my brother Kevin had an extra ticket at the last minute. I was amazed at how much of their set I was familiar with-they have a lot of hit songs! Many that I could never tell you the name of, but most of the show was familiar to me, which was cool. Every time I have seen them, they do not take a set break, they do what I think is about the coolest goddamn thing you can do to give some of the band a brief break, whilst keeping the music going - a monstrous drum jam. Everyone but the drummer leaves the stage, then slowly returns to join in the percussive festivites. They really put on an amazing show. I espescially love their cover of The Cure's "Love Song", which was the first song my bro and his wife danced to at their wedding last month.

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