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Matisyahu speaks on Akeda, acting, Judaism and shaving his famous beard

Julia Johnston

College News spoke to Matisyahu for an exclusive interview

College News had the opportunity to chat with Grammy-nominated artist Matisyahu. The world came to know him as an Orthodox Jewish reggae-rapper out of New York. Just like his music, Matisyahu is constantly growing. The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics were an important time for Matisyahu, as his song “One Day” became the positively catchy theme song. With a major movie under his belt for 2012’s The Possession, Matisyahu is keeping busy promoting his new album Akeda, which was released on June 3rd.

CN: How is your new album Akeda different from albums you have done in the past?

M: All of my albums are different and have a level of growth. This one is more instrumental as the last album had synthesizer. This one was done with the Dub Trio, it is similar to my first album in that aspect but all my albums are different and they grow

CN: The cover art on Akeda is really unique, could you explain it?

M: The cover art was inspired by a dream I had. I actually went to my fans on the internet and told them my dream and asked them to create it. So the cover is the drawing that won.

CN: What was the dream?
I had a dream that I was on fire but it wasn’t burning me. The flames were in my hand but they were like water. That’s what I wanted portrayed, the flames in my hand. The art was not exactly that but I felt like it really represented my dream.

CN: Have you received a lot of pressure and high expectations to be a perfect representation of Judaism and Jewish culture?

M: Yes starting out especially. I was branded to this role I had because of how I chose to portray myself. I didn’t let it affect my music. I was still genuine to the type of things I wanted to put out there. I felt like when I shaved [my beard] it showed me changing as a person because it was that time.

CN: Was shaving your beard a separation from that role?

M: I wouldn’t say it was a separation because I still hold my beliefs but you could say it was a departure from that image as I adapted and moved on.

CN: Beyond music, you are involved in several other things like charity work.

M: I hold benefit concerts from time to time to raise money for certain projects.

CN: You also began acting. Tell us about working on The Possession directed by Ole Bornedal in 2012.

M: It was a lot of fun. I was just talking about it with friends the other week and we watched it.

CN: Does seeing the movie freak you out? Or do you know too many of the secrets?

M: No, it doesn’t scare me. The funny part was that the friends I watched it with don’t really like scary movies so I had to promise to walk them through it. So I did and I pointed out where there was CGI and what was going to happen. When you work with the people on the movie it takes all the scariness away from it, it doesn’t scare me at all.

CN: Would you consider doing more acting in the future?

M: Yes, very much so. I’m busy now with the new record but eventually I would like to do some more acting.

CN: Where do you see yourself in ten years?

M: I would like to have a program for young musicians. Just live on a farm somewhere with a bunch of creative people and work on music. 

CN: What advice do you have for young artists or musicians?

M: Stay genuine. Stay true to your music and what you like.

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