Today, Vanderbilt will host its most esteemed musical visitor, excluding Rites and Quake, since Billy Joel (and Michael Pollack) captivated a sold-out Langford Auditorium almost two years ago. Matisyahu burst onto the scene in the mid-2000s, delivering a powerful reggae sound laced with traces of rock, hip-hop, and his trademark Judaism-inspired lyrics. It was a wonder to behold him commanding the stage in traditional Hasidic dress, complete with yarmulke and full beard, while performing in a style that broke the mold of Jewish orthodoxy and tradition. We listened in awe as “King Without a Crown” leapt to #28 on the Billboard Top 100, easily the highest a song with explicitly Jewish lyrics has ever charted. We sang along to the powerful “One Day,” which was remixed with new verses by Akon. And then those of us outside the reggae community allowed Matisyahu to slip from our consciousness.
The Matisyahu who will be walking around West End today looks far different from the Matisyahu of ten years ago. Gone is the beard, as is the yarmulke–he wears a clean-shaven look topped by a mop of graying hair. The music, while it still contains Judaism at its heart, has become more secular and more diverse in style, reflecting the man’s continuing spiritual journey. But Matisyahu is as active as ever, having released his fifth studio album Akeda in June and touring extensively in support of the LP. In light of this metamorphosis, let’s take a closer look at some of the highlights of Matisyahu’s decade-long career.