matisyahu light
  • MONDAY, AUGUST 24, 2009

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Part rock, part funk-reggae, part preacher, Matisyahu wears many hats when he rhymes. Easy to dismiss as gimmicky, but difficult to ignore, Matisyahu (born Mathew Miller) weaves an interesting fusion of styles with his positive message driven rap. His third album finds him still creating the jam-band sound that made him popular, while shedding some light on his versatility.

Miller flawlessly imitates the style of his heroes, Marley and company, but at this stage is it really imitation anymore? The swagger is distinctly recognizable and easily attributed to Matis and his body of work. He mixes the accented flow with a spit-style akin to renaissance musician Tim Fite (circa Over The Counterculture), and the combination is effective. Still, the music seems best suited for the devout looking for a voice to follow; Miller isn't doing anything new with his music. He is just doing something conspicuously absent from today's mainstream music scene. The label 'religiously conscious rock star' is usually reserved for the conservative Christians, and aside from having an entire genre devoted to it, Christian rock rarely touches a Billboard chart (save for exceptions, e.g. Switchfoot). Matisyahu breaks the mold with his quirkiness. He balances whispers in Yiddish (I think) on tracks like "Silence" and well-oiled verses spit over sizzling beats like the verse on "Darkness Into Light" for a compelling combination of stylistic melting pots and stylistic prayer.

The theme of 'light' certainly ties the lyrical material together, but cohesiveness aside Miller fails to top "King Without A Crown," the single that first gathered attention from music fans. This isn't a bad thing, the first single really captured the essence of the artist, a sentiment that has been successfully spread out onto his past two records. "One Day" isn't the best cut of the record, but it certainly speaks to Matisyahu's staying power, an important quality for a major label artist. Oh, and "Smash Lies" has like a billion-plus replay value, so that is good. Just remember, Matisyahu isn't for snobbish hype-machine huggers. He is for the Crown Heights clique, a community man with a message as his mission. Respectable, even if the message is sometimes simply "stand up and jump off to this." A message we can all get behind, regardless of beliefs.

-joe puglisi

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