Matisyahu: A most unorthodox pop star on Yahoo! News

"Matthew Miller cuts a striking figure on stage with his black hat and beard. The fervent Hasidic Jew better known as Matisyahu is also an unlikely rising star of reggae and rap.
The 26-year-old has reconciled strict religious demands with a staccato chant pop style that has taken his latest album 'Youth' straight into the Billboard charts at number four with 120,000 copies sold in one week.
With the help of internet chat rooms, in a few months Matisyahu has gone from local shows to headlining national events. He will be one of the top names at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago in August.
But no shows on a Friday, the eve of the Sabbath, and no fraternising with female fans. 'There's always one drunk girl who runs up to give me a hug. I have to pull away,' he said in a recent interview with Rolling Stone magazine.
His rap is hardcore but puts across a positive message:
'Strip away the layers and reveal your soul,
Give yourself up and then you become whole'.
Matisyahu has already gone through the rebellious phase of his life.
Born in to a non-religious Jewish family, he spent much of his younger years living in the New York suburb of White Plains. He went to a Hebrew school twice a week as a child but says he was often threatened with expulsion for disrupting classes.
It was as a 16-year-old on a camping trip to Colorado that he discovered religion. From there he went on a trip to Israel that he says 'stirred' his Jewish identity.
After that trip, the youth dropped out of his home school and was sent to a wilderness school in Oregon, where he ended up studying reggae and hip-hop music and began performing under the name MC Truth.
He returned to New York in 2000 to study, started regularly attending a synagogue and met a rabbi who convinced him to become a Lubavitch Hasadic Jew.

MC Truth, who once sceptical of authority, became "Matisyahu", the Hebrew version of Matthew.

Matisyahu's entourage say his music combines the sounds of late reggae legend Bob Marley and Shlomo Carlebach, a rabbi who became one of Israel's best known singers of the 20th century.

Bill Werde, a senior editor at Billboard magazine, explained Matisyahu's appeal.

"There's a lot of interest in reggae and in general Jamaican music in the US right now, if you look at the success of other artists like Sean Paul or Wyclef Jean," Werde told AFP.

"His music is good, his songs are good. He has sort of a positive uplifting message and I think that's really reasonating with people right now."

Matisyahu has definitely arrived. He told Rolling Stone he had been invited by Madonna, a recent convert to the mystic Jewish faith of Kabbalah, for the Passover festival.

"I don't know if I can go. I'll have to check it out with, like, multiple people, to make sure it's kosher," the rapper said on the Jimmy Kimmel television show which helped launch his career.

The rabbis generally approve of his music, he added, because they back anything to "help people to connect to their godliness".

Time will tell if Matisyahu becomes a longstanding pop sensation.

But Werde said that while the rapper has a Jewish "base" he was now "a mainstream pop success story".

"Because of Matisyahu's appearance, he was able to create a critical amount of buzz. If he didn't have the music to back it up, he would not sustain his rise. And the fact of the matter is these are great songs, and it's a message that people are clearly responding to."

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