The Evolution of Matisyahu

Matisyahu, mid-2000s (top) and 2014 (bottom).

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.

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The Death of Death Grips and The Powers That B

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MC Ride

In early June, the elusive experimental hip hop group Death Grips released the first half of a double LP called The Powers That B, effectively dropping a bomb on the indie music community from up their sleeves.  Soon after, the band announced the completion of Death Grips as a project and the cancellation of all future tour dates.  Now we find ourselves in a post-Death Grips world, except one of these days we can expect Death Grips to release the second half of The Powers That B in a similarly sudden fashion.

Black Quarterback:

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2014 SuMm3r Recap

Photo courtesy of crienglish.com
Photo courtesy of crienglish.com

Hey, we’re back. That’s right, the writers here on wrvu.org are ready for another semester to report/analyze/fangirl/discuss musical topics that we find interesting. However, over the summer there was a full three months of activity that we left untouched. For this reason, I have outlined some of the interesting headlines and releases of the summer.

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Welcome to Nashville!

With all students — both old and new — arriving back on campus this weekend, our e-staff curated the last playlist of our summer series based on our favorite songs from and about the bustling happy bright shining wonderful happy city of Nashville.

Enjoy, and stay tuned for the return of our live shows September 1st!

Left Field Favorites

Lots of music out there is just a little bit different, and that’s the common thread running through the songs on this playlist. The experimental, unconventional, and slightly off: all are highlighted in “Left Field Favorites”. From the careening krautrock of Can to the intricately programmed techno of Autechre, tune in for music that makes you think.

Adventures at Bonnaroo 2014

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Ah, Bonnaroo 2014. As I wrote this post, I had a difficult time formulating the proper words to describe my experience. Well first of all, I’ll say when I set out for Bonnaroo on Wednesday night, I knew it’d be a great time, but I had no idea that after I got back home on Sunday, I’d be thinking I had the best weekend of my life.

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Ridiculous

The summer Spotify series continues. Here’s what DJ Gracie Gonzalez has to say about her playlist, “Ridiculous”.

I crafted this playlist at the beginning of summer, imagining my friends and I piling into cars with beach chairs and boogie boards. It’s mainly a mix of 50s-style doo-wop and Spanish music. The fast-paced happiness spawning from the combination of those genres spoke “summer” to me this year. A couple of 80s and 90s gems are thrown in there to break up the monotony but every song featured is certifiably merry.

‘Nuff said. If you like what you hear, be sure to tune into Gracie’s show Heena Koona in the fall.

Bonnaroo 2014- The Highlights

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My attendance a few weeks ago at the strange 4-day escape from reality called Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival marked my fifth year at the event. Early on every year the same doubtful thought runs through my mind: Why do I continue year after year to put myself through this? Sometime between my first use of the less than gleaming porta-potties and the realization that yes, I would indeed be this sweaty and disheveled for the next four days, that moment of panic comes.

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