Usually one to stay out of the limelight, the (ex?) Hasidic Jewish hip-hop and reggae artist has made significant waves these past few weeks both in the music world and his personal life, leaving fans and the media scratching their heads and, in one unlucky photographer's case, ducking for cover.
After releasing his pop-heavy, Hanukkah EP Miracle late last month, Matisyahu went through a bit of a makeover -- shaving his head and cutting off his beard in an act of religious and personal rebirth.
"I felt that in order to become a good person, I needed rules -- lots of them -- or else I would somehow fall apart. I am reclaiming myself. Trusting my goodness and my divine mission," he tweeted along with pictures of his new, clean-shaven look.
This is a big deal. And we understand that his was not a decision made overnight on a whim and that, yes, there is a level of privacy he's entitled to.
However, Matisyahu, don't start shit you can't finish.
Putting personal business on Twitter for the world to see automatically opens the floodgates for criticism, scrutiny, and a whole bunch of questions. And as a popular musician with a wide fan base, Matisyahu should be prepared to deal with the frenzy.
It's not like his bald head and new outlook on life would fly under the radar of his 1,374,146 Twitter followers or the vulture-like entertainment media.
So naturally, in anticipation of his upcoming show, County Grind was eager to ask the artist about his recent change of philosophy.
Instead, we got an email from Matisyahu's management saying that although we were approved for an interview, the rapper was "NOT answering any question[s] about his recent decision to shave, or his change in religious status." OK. (Kind of like when Erykah Badu's people nixed any "Window Seat" video talk.)
To make matters more questionable, the responses we received from Matisyahu -- the interview was done via email, as the singer was "on vocal rest" -- were, in a word, curt.
County Grind: Your new single and EP "Miracle" delves more into the realms of pop music than your previous releases. Do you find yourself moving away from the sound of "Smash Lies" and "Got No Water" to a sound that some would say is more mainstream? How do you think fans will react?
Matisyahu: First off, "Got No Water" and "Smash Lies" have two completely different sounds. Secondly the EP has 5 versions of the same song all with different sounds. My sound has never been one thing. It has always been a fusion of styles, sometimes leaning more in one direction and other times in another. I would only want to have fans who understand this.
After personally dealing with Matisyahu's sour state, our minds were left wondering upon hearing of his alleged attack on a photographer during his "Festival of Light" Hanukkah show in New York.
The rapper reportedly kicked the photographer in the face and tried to wrestle the camera out of her hands, ultimately breaking an expensive piece of equipment. You can read her full account of what happened here. Matisyahu has since issued an apology, blaming his frustration on the photographer's use of flash during his show.
Is flash photography annoying? Yes. But as a recording artist who's been in the spotlight for almost ten years performing for audiences across the globe, one photographer and her flash shouldn't cause a Hulk-like lash-out.
No, the timing of Matisyahu's freak-out -- just about a week after his bathroom photo shoot -- is key.
We don't know whether the two incidents are related or if Matisyahu was just in a bad mood when he answered our interview questions. But what we can infer is that there's a lot of something going on beneath the surface. Having the world privy to your personal religious epiphany and then jumping into a tour is a lot to handle. And maybe it's too much.
It'll be interesting to see how Matisyahu fares during tonight's acoustic show, which features an audience question-and-answer session. We have a few questions on our sheet that need answering for sure. If you were on the fence about attending, recent events are feeling like a swift kick toward the Kravis Center box office.
Matisyahu, 8 p.m. Thursday, December 29, at the Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. Tickets cost $25 to $75. Call 561-832-7469.
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