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Jewish reggae rapper Matisyahu to perform in Boulder

March 15, 2017 Updated: March 15, 2017 at 6:33 pm
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Reggae rapper Matisyahu will perform Sunday at Boulder Theater. Courtesy.

8 p.m. Sunday, Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder, $25-$27.50; 1-303-786-7030, bouldertheater.com

Matisyahu went through a personal evolution when he parted ways with his Hasidic Orthodox Jewish faith in 2011.

As the popular ultra religious reggae rapper superstar disposed of the long beard and the yarmulke, fans didn't hold back their disappointment and anger.

It was "one of the hardest things I've had to go through," he told The Huffington Post in 2015.

"I was feeling like I was doing this very holy work, actually, and all of a sudden all these people are just assuming the worst of me, saying 'not being religious or shaving his beard is a character flaw.' Just assuming that it didn't come from a holy place or a place of avodah (religious service), but rather that it came from some kind of weakness," he said in an interview with Haaretz in 2015.

He's stayed the course since then and remained true to himself - a musician whose faith and music is ever evolving. He's touring in support of his new five-song EP "Release the Bound" and will perform Sunday at Boulder Theater in Boulder.

Brought up as a reconstructionist Jew, a more contemporary branch of the religion, Matthew Paul Miller dropped out of high school in White Plains, New York, and drifted aimlessly for a while, developing a drug habit and following the jam band Phish around on tour. Eventually he returned to New York where he became increasingly interested in Judaism. He took classes, adopted the Hebrew moniker Matisyahu and lived for a decade in a Hasidic Jewish community where he studied reggae and played in multiple bands.

"When I became religious in my early 20s and was talking to God on the roof (of his college) and saying, 'What do you want? What do you want me to do?' - I thought this whole religious thing was what God wanted, what I was supposed to do.

"That was like sacrificing that part of myself for God," he told Haaretz.

In 2006 his hit song "King Without a Crown" secured a spot at the top of the charts and his career took off. He headlined festivals and landed on movie soundtracks. His song "One Day" was used as background music for NBC's advertisement of the Olympic games in 2009. And then it all came crashing to a stop when he posted a photo of his beardless face on Twitter and followed that up with a message on his website: "No more Chassidic reggae superstar. Sorry folks, all you get is me... no alias."

He didn't give up the music, though, just the persona, and released "Akeda" in 2014, calling it slightly different than his previous work.

"Also, when I came out I was at a place in my life where I felt I had figured a lot of things out," he told the news organization Noisey in 2014. "I thought that was going to be an ongoing journey. I was very dedicated and disciplined. So people thought: "Oh here's a normal guy who overcame something and got it figured out. And I've been trying to tell everyone for these last seven or eight years that I don't have it figured out. And people still get pissed off when they figure out I don't have my (expletive) together."

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