Chassidic reggae superstar Matisyahu gets a not-so-positive review from Rolling Stone. We gave his new album "Youth" a listen in the car the other day and were thoroughly unimpressed. While I'm no connoisseur of chassidic reggae, I find it unexciting that all Matisyahu has to offer the world is reggae music that incorporates lyrics about Moshiach and Jerusalem. Is that so creative? Cultural production is not about appropriating established genres and tweaking them to fit one's personal identity. Whenever I listen to his stuff, I can't help but feel this is some Lubavitch guy who can rap and thinks reggae is cool. But there's nothing particularly Jewish about his art. And he's not brining anything new to the regaae discourse. Reggae music is already chock full of references to Zion, the Israelites, Jerusalem, etc.
Would Matisyahu be considered so fascinating if he put Jewish-themed lyrics to country style music? I'd be more interested in someone who looked deep into Jewish tradition and discovered music that has Jewish history ( like, say prayer chanting or cantorial styles) and gave it a contemporary spin. Like a Fischerspooner version of "Adon Olam." Put that in your I-pod and smoke it.