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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Matisyahu - MTV interviews

Here are two interviews of Matisyahu made by MTV:

My Chemical Matisyahu? Reggae Rapper Hooks Up With Rock Director Webb


Hasidic breakthrough artist, video auteur shot 'Youth' at CBGB.

What do you get when you mix Hasidic reggae artist Matisyahu with My Chemical Romance video auteur Marc Webb, place them both on a stage in New York and set the whole thing during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot?

No, it's not the setup to some
bawdy barroom joke; it's what actually went down last weekend as Matisyahu took the stage at legendary rock spot CBGB to shoot a video for "Youth," the first single from his upcoming major-label debut.

Working with Webb — who over the past 12 months has directed videos for everyone from MCR and Incubus to Ashlee Simpson and Hilary Duff — Matis shot a performance-heavy video that still manages to be about much, much more.

"This whole music project started off by performing and doing shows, really interacting with the audience, and that's what we do best, so that's what the video captures," Matisyahu told MTV News backstage on the shoot. "And then we're trying to capture the energy of youth. There's a line in the song that goes, 'The youth is the engine of the world,' so we're trying to show that in the video too."

The video is the third Webb has shot this month — after Yellowcard's "Lights and Sounds" and Weezer's "Perfect Situation" — and it follows Matisyahu's impassioned performance at CBGB to the streets of Brooklyn. It also caps off a pretty amazing year for the 25-year-old rapper/toaster, who became a rather unlikely sensation at this year's South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas , followed that up with a live album, Live At Stubb's, toured the country, recorded a few tunes with Christian rap-rockers P.O.D., and even got to perform with one of his idols, former Phish frontman Trey Anastasio .

"We were at Bonnaroo and it was the Sabbath, so I was away for the 24-hour period from Friday night to Saturday night, and then Saturday night I found out there was a chance I could perform with [Anastasio], so naturally I said yeah," Matisyahu explained. "And as I was heading back, I realized that this was a great opportunity for me, because when I was 17, I left high school and followed Phish around the country, and at that age, there were a lot of negative things happening to me, so I saw this as great way to rectify all of those things."

And while he tends to apply that same sort of super-serious focus to many things in his life, Matisyahu is nothing but totally amped about the prospects of this new, still-untitled album, which is due in stores in late January.

"Since I became religious, I don't get over-excited by many things, but music is one of them. And I'm really excited about the album. Whenever I find it in the CD player and put it on, I still really like it. And I've been listening to it for a few months. So that's good," he laughed. "We recorded this summer, and the songs were written by me and my band, so the musicality of it comes from a wide array of influences. It's got dub reggae and hard rock and laid-back folk songs and some straight-up hip hop. It's full of songs that lots of people can relate to. I can't wait for people to hear it."


Straight Outta West Chester? Meet Hasidic Hip-Hopper Matisyahu

His religious rap is catching on, and a new live album is around the corner.

When one thinks of hip-hop hotbeds, West Chester, Pennsylvania, doesn't spring to mind. And when considering the most gangsta things a true hip-hop head can do, dedicating one's life to Judaism isn't exactly high on the list.

But for
Matisyahu, well, that's pretty much the way he wants things.

Born Matthew Miller in West Chester on June 30, 1979, the artist-soon-to-be-known-as-Matisyahu spent his formative years kicking around the U.S. with his family, listening to hip-hop, making trouble in Hebrew schools and growing an unfortunate crop of dreadlocks. By the time he reached high school, he was a full-blown hippie and dropped out to follow Phish on tour. It was on the road that Miller started to listen to reggae. Then everything changed.

"I used to listen to Bob Marley and Sizzla and Buju Banton. I used to go everywhere listening to that music. I'd walk around with headphones on, skateboard with headphones on. That music made its mark," Matisyahu said. "And then about four years ago, I made a decision to become religious, because I was always trying to find a path, and I figured, 'Let me check into my roots,' and I found a way to access a place that I was trying to get to for a while."

While he was still in high school, Miller had made a trip to Israel. When he returned, he was a changed man. But it took going on the road and discovering reggae for everything to come together. Miller decided to rededicate his life to Judaism and use his hip-hop and reggae roots to spread his religion's messages of love and acceptance.

That's when Matisyahu was born.

"I wasn't raised religious, this was a journey," he explained. "I want to spread my message of trying to stay centered in this world, and of trying to tap into your core and your roots and the godly spark that everyone has."

Matisyahu moved to the Jewish section of Crown Heights, Brooklyn, and started bringing his message to open-mic nights all around New York. After some initial skepticism from audiences, his reggae-tinged raps started to win crowds over, and he began to make a name for himself on the conscious hip-hop circuit. Last year he collected his rhymes and cut a record called Shake Off the Dust ... Arise. And just last month his performance at the South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas, was one of the festival's most talked-about events.

On April 19, he'll release Matisyahu Live at Stubb's, and he's preparing to hit the studio to record a new album (with a "real big-name producer" whose name he won't reveal) later this year. And there's still the attention he garners from major labels ... but for Matisyahu, a big-buck deal is not what it's about. He answers to a higher power.

"I'm trying to stay pure and holy for God," he said. "I've got a message that's universal. I'm trying to show that you can be who you are — and be strong with who you are — and still be unified with other people. It's something everyone wants to hear."


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