This may be hard for some people to believe, but there was a time when MTV did not feature a Lubavitch Hasid in regular rotation.
In just three short years, Matisyahu, also known as the Hasidic reggae superstar, has become a veritable phenomenon of Jewish and American pop culture. In his wake he has left sold-out venues across the country, his decidedly biblical name emblazoned across music bible Rolling Stone magazine, and the word "Moshiach" coming out of radios nationwide with the kind of frequency once limited to the smallest enclaves of religious life. Discovered as part of a line-up of JDub Records, a nonprofit label featuring hip Jewish music, Matisyahu was soon picked up by Sony, one of the most important mainstream labels in the industry. Although Matisyahu never marketed himself as a mere novelty act, whether he has the ability to maintain his relationship with mainstream audiences remains an open question.
Beginning this week, there will be an answer.
On Tuesday, Sony released "Youth," Matisyahu's third album, setting up the coming weeks as a make-or-break period for the singer, as listeners decide whether there's more to him than the decidedly unexpected sight of a Hasid singing Rastafarian music.
Listen for yourselves:
(U.S. listening only)
P.S. try here, too.