Matisyahu is a Lubavich Hasidic reggae / hip hop star, "combining the sounds of Bob Marley and Shlomo Carlebach, yet remaining wholly original" according to the bio on his website. No, really; he played the Bill Graham Civic last night, and I missed it because I didn't know he existed.
Whaddaya know, the music is pretty good. And he's done a couple of slickly-produced videos, of course; they have to be seen to be believed. "King Without a Crown" is pretty straightforward, and not such a stretch if you know your reggae well—just substitute Ha'Shem for Jah, and there you are. But "Youth" is truly astonishing: we get Matisyahu wrapping Tefillin, Matisyahu rapping for an audience in his black fedora, Matisyahu doing his hip-hop hand gestures in a zip-up hoodie, Matisyahu looking street smart on the mean streets of New York. I know, it sounds comical ... and there is a bit of the queasy feeling you get from the usual culture industry efforts to tell you This Is Cool ... but mostly, it's just eerily sincere.
Mazel tov, Matisyahu. You keep doing your thing.