A Hasidic reggae sensation. It sounds like a sitcom setup that inevitably ends in “Now I’ve really seen it all!” And I’ll admit that when I saw Matisyahu for the first time, the gangly visage in a black suit and hat and traditional beard, combined with a voice perfectly trained for staccato wordplay, was as disorienting as Michael Bolton bustin’ out with a rhyme that would make Jay-Z blush. Yet despite being the last guy you’d expect to find himself in a waka-waka rhythm, Matisyahu comes legit with lyrics often steeped in religious imagery which, like Bob Marley’s Rastafarianism or even Bono’s Catholicism, never cross over into dogma. It’s in those lyrics that Matisyahu’s conceit comes into focus: Zion, Babylon, salvation, temples, princes and kings — whether Jamaica or Jerusalem, reggae at its core is rebel music for true believers. Matisyahu is true, and he’s bound to make some new believers of his own.

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