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Matisyahu Hater: Decoded!

matisyahu-haterBy Simcha Levenberg

One month ago Matisyahu released Light. The album is out there in the ether garnering praise and getting radio play. Personally, I love Matisyahu. I like him and his music. I think hes the best thing that happened to Judaism since cholov yisroel Parmesan Cheese. But that feeling isnt universal. In fact, there are quite a few people who hate him and his music. Heres the short list:

  1. You couldve been a contender – In the 1970s you had a pretty good thing going. You were in this awesome band, playing shows and meeting all the right people. Your future was so bright you broke down and bought a pair of shades. Then you went and became frum. Your Rabbi told you it was assur to perform in clubs and bars. Even if technically speaking you could work around those halachic issues it wasnt proper for a man of your personage, i.e. frum, to pursue such ridiculous dreams. So you dropped it all. Now, youre juggling an upside down mortgage and yeshiva payments while working a dead end job and hating your life. And here cometh Matis, who ignores the prudent advice of his Rabbis and lives out your abandoned dream.
  2. Just missed the bus – The universe can only sustain one break out Chassidic recording artist. Had Matisyahu not recorded Shake off the Dust in 2004, JDUB definitely would have spotted your awesome demo and all his success would be yours. But, he killed your chance. The closest to Live at Stubs that youll get is Baal Teshuva weddings and Hillel houses. You know your better than him, but no one else ever will. Oh and by the way, youre still struggling to get your degree in social work from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work.
  3. The angry Lubavitcher Hell hath no fury like a Lubavitcher scorned. Matis was your poster boy, proof positive that everything was right with the universe and that Moshiach was coming within the next seven minutes. It was all golden; right up until Matisyahu stabbed you through the heart when he allegedly dropped the Rebbe like a bad habit. Now you hate him. Were he to move into the tent next to the ohel, tattoo a picture of the Rebbe onto his face, and cut his payos off you would consider listen to his CD in your Odyssey.
  4. Matisyahu is a gateway drug. Matis is a painted harlot perched at the door of sin. This world is full of dangerous pitfalls and like a pink shirt or a college education, listening to Matisyahu will make you fry or gay, or both. It probably happened already, but you havent realized it yet.
  5. Jam-band audiophile. You know music, like, really well. Matis, being the iconic figure that he is, laps up all the press, burying more deserving fare, like the Disco Biscuits. When he sneezes the Associated Press writes an inspiring story about the color of his mucus, and youre stuck writing angry comments on lame websites about chord structures. Oh and by the way, youre still struggling to get your degree in social work from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work.
Simcha Levenberg is a stand-up comedian searching for the meaning of life in Los Angeles.

Stop coasting in the status quo. Move forward withego.com

{ 49 comments… add one }
  • nehedar September 15, 2009, 3:56 AM


  • SF2K1 September 15, 2009, 7:13 AM

    I don’t like him anymore, but that’s because he sold out to MTV for a generic sound. So what if the lyrics are still Jewish? “Reggae” is lame. He got a huge Jewish audience because he was ashkenazi, had original tunes, and managed to get in the mainstream (although I got his first album before he was that popular and liked the little dvars or niggun every few tracks). But now he’s just MTV’d as every other big singer out there and not very interesting.

    If you want good Jewish music, sfardi is still the only way to go imo.

  • Yaffa September 15, 2009, 7:42 AM

    LOL! Personally, I think he rocks, but the new album leaves something to be desired.

  • Jack In The Box September 15, 2009, 8:00 AM

    Benny Bwoy is actually more entertaining but he seemed to have missed the boat

  • j September 15, 2009, 8:51 AM

    Its not about hating. He’s played out its 2009 not 2004 move on. Nobody cares one way or the other.

  • FrumGer September 15, 2009, 9:16 AM

    I Love matiyahu- love him, the album for being on a three year haitus from recording, is not as good as I hoped… its like fasting all day on yom kipper, and finally getting to eat and all you get is a packet of saltine crackers. it was a flat tire, the only thing that saves it there are a few good songs, and the live video from CO was good… bottom line i hope matis put another live album out there because all his songs even the new ones like- Samsh lies which sounds like any radio crap you would hear from T.I. or some “Dirty South Rapper” even that song is much better live.. his shows are great that is what he is known for, because he adds more impromtu niggunim and hebrew in it. its just free style jam band, the music is great live.

  • Phil September 15, 2009, 9:21 AM

    I don’t listen to much reggae at all, if I do it’s Bob Marley, aka the first black breslover.

    Funny post.

  • J-money September 15, 2009, 9:22 AM

    how about those of us who just can’t figure out why this jewish kid from upstate sings with a Jamaican accent?

  • J-money September 15, 2009, 9:25 AM

    oh, and SF2K1, you’re retarded.

  • Voltron's Hands September 15, 2009, 9:42 AM

    First I thought Matisyahu was awesome because he was singing about Judaism & then I was like Youth sucks because it doesn’t sound like Shake Off the Dust & then I was like Youth is good because it is sort of sounds a little like Shake Off the Dust & then I was like Light sucks because it doesn’t sound like Youth and it really doesn’t sound like Shake Off the Dust & then I’m like this is just too much & I just realized that in order for me to like Jewish music it just all needs to sound the same so I put in a Yosef Karduner CD – I don’t even know which one – & that’s the greatness of it, I need the comfort of all music by an artist to sound just the same – change scares me darn it (I voted for McCain you know) & that’s why I just can’t get into Light because it just seems like the music and the themes are changing – CHANGING – the very letters scare me. I am going to go now and listen to some Shwecky (sooo consistent…sooo comforting).

  • Chris_B September 15, 2009, 9:58 AM

    As someone for whom reggae music takes up alot of my life, I liked Matisyahu when I first found him. It wasnt really reggae but it was almost close enough to satisfy me. I figured if this guy can work with Sly & Robbie and have Bill Laswell do a dub version of one of his albums, I can overlook the jam band shlock. I’ve actually played some of his dubs reggae dances when I DJ.

    After not recording for a long time he comes out with a little EP earlier this year. Not my taste at all, but then there was his guest vocal on the Easy Stars reggae version of Sgt Pepper and I still had hope. Light got released here in Japan two weeks or so before the US release due to Matisyahu’s appearance at a big summer music fest here. I grabbed it up, rushed home to put it in my iTunes and 60 minutes later realized I had wasted my money. There isnt a single track on Light I want to hear at all.

    An interview with him offered one explanation of the change. He says there that he stopped listening to reggae and so it doesnt influence his music any more. Of course I could get paranoid and think that the people at Sony Music Entertainment pushed him to go mainstream rawk, but that would be silly of me. How could I possibly think that a musician with a wife and kids to support would ever possibly abandon their roots and pander to the masses?

    Kidding aside, I dont “hate” him or his new music, but any future purchases will require full listens before I part with my hard earned Yen.

    Simcha, you need another category of “You used to be cool, man” for haters like me.

  • Anonymous September 15, 2009, 10:14 AM

    what about people who just don’t like his style of music?

  • Heshy Fried September 15, 2009, 10:33 AM

    Anonymous – this is obviously not geared towards you since you wouldn’t be hatin’ you would merely be not liking.

    I loved Live at Stubbs and other older bootlegs, but nothing else. I also think he is the best thing to happen to Judaism in ages and one of the biggest kiddush Hashems ever…

  • FrumGer September 15, 2009, 11:08 AM

    I don’t know why people didn’t like youth, that was a great album, nothing like live at stubbs, but fire in heaven alter on earth was a great song- jerusalem was a great song, – late night in tzion,- ancient lullaby,- WP- all great songs…. i personally dislike “arise… shake off the dust”, the tempo is too slow, and the quality is poor. Live at stubbs is a perfect album what micheal jackson did with thriller matis did with live at stubbs… youth was great too. but i guess others don’t like youth why not??
    i like reggae sure- but not exclusively.. besides matis is more of a jam band if you listen to them live. to all those that make fun of his imposed accent… all i have to say is what about all the Creed’esk type bands that give that stupid inflection in there voice drawing out their vowels that is totally fake- most noted by bands like creed and nickleback. how about country singers– some of these new county singers are like from seattle, but some how have a country accent when they sing- ya right… Jonathan Davis from Korn doesn’t sound like Chucky when he talks but listen to Korn he sounds like a little demon… bottom line everyone adds to there act… matis does too he does raggae and a jamacain accent goes well with the melodic driving sounds & tunes .

    matis is definatley my favorite artist of all time and i am even really trying to like this new album, its hard but i like a few songs and I hope for a new live album soon… oh ya and who listens to “theres no place to be” remix cd? not me for sure, but the” live in Israel” DVD that came with it was great…

    Matis has made it cool to be a frum Yid and has produced his share of BT’s as a direct result. he is a great guy and loves everyone, i wish him the best and will buy his good albums and his crappy ones alike… Thanks G-d for matisyahu…

  • FrumGer September 15, 2009, 11:44 AM

    Oh ya and basically he has taken Nosson Zand in like a stray pup… i wonder if there is a pound or store for unclaimed rapping Yids??? i could just see nosson sitting with sad puppy eyes, a torn velvet yarmulke, behind the glass window, longing for someone to come alone and give him a free ride.. then as matisyahu and tahlia shlepp on by to get to the kenneth cole store in the mall for some free threads, they catch a glimps of this sad lubav -brestlover mix and heard the wimpers of this lonley yid- last one of the litter, unclaimed and needing some love… matis must have turned to Tali and said assuredly ” well… its a mitzvah”.. understanding immediatly what he meant by those words she quickly yanked her kinderlocke back by those bunggee cords attached to their wrists with velcro, and asked them both excitedly,” how about we all get a new roadie???” the kids screamed with joy as they ran up to the window and started banging on the glass, of course this scared the little yid into a panicky yelp of incoherent Tehillim, but after matis calmed the new member of the entourage down, paid for him, bought him a new fresh velvet yarmulke, and got one of those Yard Signs that say “Beware of Lubavich Yiddin”… Nosson was now attached to matis side with the upmost loyalty, appearing in all his videos, learning all the tricks matis as a good owner would teach him. his hard days were now over they nicknamed him Spot and lived happily ever after…

  • Chris_B September 15, 2009, 11:46 AM


    That was comedy GOLD right there!

  • Heshy Fried September 15, 2009, 12:01 PM

    Actually I saw Nosson Zand get up on stage at a show in Baltimore and he was very good. I got VIP for the show because I worked on a project with Tali – I felt cool.

  • Talia September 15, 2009, 12:10 PM

    THIS POST IS AWESOME! What a perfect characterization. Love it!

  • Zalman September 15, 2009, 1:11 PM

    Lubavitch or not I will continue to respect Matisyahu. (As long as he doesn’t wobble anymore – it would be a disaster if the most popular Frum Jew “fries out” – G-d Forbid)

    Simcha – Well Done! I was thinking of writing something to make the case for Matisyahu but you stole the cake and cracked me up too.

    PS: Matisyahu on Moshiach: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=as7Y-mCiFaM

    (It appears that not only is he still Lubavitch, he may even be a Messianic)

    Matis! Keep Kicking.

  • James September 15, 2009, 6:26 PM

    How about his music just sucks?!

  • Scott September 15, 2009, 6:34 PM

    I just don’t like him because he’s not a nice person.
    He also doesn’t seem to be a ‘healthy’ person.

    I don’t like his music because it is not good.

    The article is very cute at pointing out different sub-cultures that may or may not follow his trip, yet it is always easy to get a cheap laugh from pigeon-holing and poking fun – especially at such easily parodied people as “Frum” Jews.
    I would not go so far as to call the author a self-hating “frum” Jew, but he clearly has some identity issues. Some TRUE creativity may be in order for Mr. Levenberg.

  • FrumGer September 15, 2009, 7:35 PM

    Ya i have met him, briefly after a show, he performed that night as well.. it’s just a little satire, commenting on roadies in general, mos def not to be taken seriously. i am actually glad Matis has a frum friend/ roadie/ groupie.. it helps keep you on track, keeps things kosher, and in a situation like he is in, being a rock star and all, it is a huge mitzvah.. what Nosson is actually doing for Matis… matis might be keeping Nosson’s body and giving him money, little fame, and spotlight, but Nosson is keeping Matisyahu’s neshamah, keeping him pure… like Kahilet says..

    If a man prevails against one who is alone, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken..

  • FrumGer September 15, 2009, 11:20 PM

    matis is not a nice person?? every time i have ever seen him he has been nice, but who knows. what is Scott talking about?? not healthy???
    the dude is up on every health nut craze out there- he Juices like its religion have you seen his vid blogs? he gargles with fresh ginger and apple viniger.. he is like the health nut of all health nuts…

  • aztecqueen2000 September 16, 2009, 12:34 PM

    Does anyone know if her performed his scheduled concert in Central Park last July? If he did, I have lost all respect for him.
    The concert was on Shiva Assar B’Tammuz…

  • Heshy Fried September 16, 2009, 1:25 PM

    A lot of his concerts are on weird days, like on Friday afternoon or on a fast day after the fast – he also does shows during the 3 weeks which I heard is ok – but if not he can just make a siyum like the frummies in Brooklyn do during the 9 days when they want to eat meat

  • Chris_B September 16, 2009, 2:42 PM


    I did an AskMoses about music during 3 weeks regarding if your income depends on music, i.e. if its your day job. They say that in that case yes, its OK to perform or work with music but didnt cite a source.

    His last show in the Tokyo area was on a Saturday night. No way for me to get out to the location where it was w/o springing for a hotel for Friday night and inevitable multiple shabbat violations to get to the fest. Plus one day tix were $140 and I had to DJ that night so clearly I was not supposed to see him perform.

  • Phil September 16, 2009, 2:57 PM


    You could find heterim for lot’s of things. My ex business partner used to make his own music and his Rabbi told him the same. As the music was computer generated, I could see where it might be more lenient than actually having a live concert with instruments, danicing, and the general party atmosphere that goes along with it.

    Without trying to judge him, I imagine a singer of his stature could probably puch a concert off for 9 days, it’s kind of bad taste not to, especially when other Jews with similar observance levels are abstaining from eating meat and even from showering.

  • scott September 16, 2009, 7:17 PM

    I meant not emotionally ‘healthy’. See my post above.

    He def has many personal issues and he’s putting them all on display. It truly is sad, almost like the Britney Spears of Jewish music…. actually exactly that.

    May he be helped with all he needs.

  • FrumGer September 17, 2009, 1:23 PM

    Scott- what problems i mean all i heard him say is basically when he was in chabad he became an alcholic and he needed a change. his family is still together, and he is making a living he is shomer Torah, and sure he has struggles but they are the same as we all have. It is really hard to live by a set of guidelines and be an artist. read chaim potocks my name is asher lev. i recommend this book because it really goes into that deeply. i say Yasher Koach to matis- he is a very artistic guy, and its a hard life to be in the spotlight and be an artist when everyone expects him to go OTD… under the circumstances i think he is managing well. if the worst thing he can do is not wear a bekishe or kapota everywhere and OMG do a stagedive then he is alright. don’t hear all the lashon hora, believe he is on the Derech, believe he is a baal teshuvah. i think we forget or make cliche of that name baal teshuvah- a master of return or repentence. i wish the best for hime, and just because he is deep or emotional, or goes through highs and lows , doesn’t mean he is brittney spears. that is not fair to him. he is trying to better the world- brittney is doing her best to make it ugly and trashy. no comp.

  • Guy September 17, 2009, 6:33 PM

    His new album sucks, way over produced. He should release a live version of light.

  • chevramaidel May 31, 2010, 1:01 PM

    Another way-late comment, but I’m still discovering a lot of your old posts.
    “Like a pink shirt or a college education, listening to Matisyahu will make you frei or gay, or both.” Love that!
    If people hate him because of professional jealousy, personal jealousy, or because they’re angry that his talents can no longer be exploited by Chabad, all I can say is that he’s in very good company.

  • D123 August 30, 2010, 1:37 PM

    I happen to be a very big fan of Matisyahu’s “music”, his religious level is his own struggle to figure out. I went to a few of his shows months ago and was very disappointed. His positive energy was gone and he was stuck in his own trip and not connecting to the audience whatsoever. aside from that, I really enjoy his music and appreciate his creativity.

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