The 6-foot-5-inch Hasidic Jew, Matisyahu, might seem like an unlikely candidate for producing quality music, but appearances can be deceiving.
This West Chester, Pa., native is quite the musical artist, writing fantastic songs time and time again. His sophomore album “Youth” is an excellent showcase of his work.
Released in 2006, “Youth” is quite an amorphous body of work; the musical elements it contains mesh together into an unclassifiable genre that can only be loosely deemed “reggae.”
While Matisyahu certainly uses reggae as a base, many of his songs contain elements of hip-hop, rock, beatboxing and even traditional hazzanic motifs to construct a unique style.
Nodding to his Jewish roots, Matisyahu infuses his tracks with lyrical references to Judaism. The result is songs of hope with positive messages throughout.
These uplifting themes are complemented well by the cheery nature of the reggae music.
While most, if not all of the songs are well worth multiple listens, a few stand out above the rest.
The album opener, “Fire of Heaven/Altar of Earth,” definitely sets the mood for the rest of the disc. The smooth flow, quick-tongued lyrics and easy-listening reggae feel make for a great track.
“Time of Your Song” has an awesome baseline, catchy melody and a music box-like piano theme playing throughout. Matisyahu’s beatboxing is also exhibited toward the end of the song.
Arguably, the best song on the album comes half way through the disc. “Jerusalem” has a fantastic beat with meaningful lyrics.
Matisyahu looks to rise above the struggles his people have endured over the past centuries.
Lines like “Burn in the oven in this century/ The gas tried to choke, but it couldn’t choke me” and “Why is everybody always chasing we?/ Cut off the roots of your family tree” show the troubles suffered in the past.
But the climax and message to the song is summed up with the line “Ain’t no one gonna break my stride, ain’t no one gonna pull me down/ Oh no—I got to keep on movin’, stay alive.” It is truly a hopeful song in all respects.
To finish things off, “King Without a Crown” is the perfect ending to a great album.
The typical smooth reggae flow is back in all its glory. Matisyahu really jams, and you can feel the energy and enjoyment emanating from him when he sings it.
The lyrical flow further matches the head-bobbing beat. “King Without a Crown” easily brings the album full circle.
“Youth” is a solid album with a unique style. The marrying of reggae with traditional Jewish ideals and musical styles yields a very smooth, yet excellent compilation.
Matisyahu has found a wonderful niche with his second album.