Matisyahu, Light

Richard Gehr

By Richard Gehr

on 06.15.11 in Reviews


The Hasidic reggae-toasting MC wears his uncertainty on his sleeve

As an Hasidic Jew with one foot in hip-hop, the other in reggae and a third appendage lodged in hard rock, Matisyahu Miller serves many masters. A strong morality underlies his inner-Brooklyn MC spiel, which is informed more by Old Testament doctrines than the Christian rock blaring out of a suburban megachurch. Light, Matisyahu's third album, burns hard and bright from the outset. Both "Smash Lies" and the album's highlight, "We Will Walk," layer thick rock instrumentation over double- and triple-time rhymes describing, as the latter track puts it, how he's "bound to the one and will not sway, found again his majesty record power radio play, climb and climb to outer space" (punctuation mine). Great stuff, no doubt thanks to the heavy professional hand of producer David Kahne (Fishbone, Sublime, Strokes). "One Day" and "I Will Be Light" dip into the gospel according to Bob Marley, while "Escape" owes much to the New Age Steppers' "Fade Away." It's a constant balancing act, with Matisyahu teaming up with the esteemed Barrington Levy for "Struggla" and the Good Charlotte guys on "Darkness and Light." But give Matisyahu credit for wearing his uncertainties on his sleeve. "Silence," the closing track on this assured if not completely convincing album, is a Hebrew-language song of hope and doubt, sung to a deity playing infinitely hard to get.