Shake Off the Dust... Arise

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This, the debut album from Matisyahu is a full-fledged announcement that he has arrived. Despite the varying levels of novelty-hype surrounding a Hasid taking the mic for dancehall reggae, Matisyahu is capable of performing at the highest levels. The style taken is primarily a high-energy form of dancehall, spit out in something of a patois, but primarily in English with passages of Yiddish and Hebrew. The lyrical content is generally devotional or moral, but also heads into solfage-style scatting from time to time. The reggae itself is solid, with a strong backing band and interesting sampling of older motifs from the roots reggae domain. Matisyahu himself is the real star here, able to slide from style to style smoothly. In portions (such as the heartbreaking "Father in the Forest"), he cries out with emotion rarely heard anymore. In portions he spits lyrics with a phrasing ability that alternately lopes and flies. In portions, he reduces the elements to the beatbox for sheer showmanship (probably not on the level of a Rahzel or Kenny Mohammed, but he's en route). Listen once for the novelty of the concept, then keep listening for the quality of the execution. Arguably one of the most noteworthy albums of the year.

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