Honor Not A False Messiah

The New York Times is reporting today that Matisyahu has, without any forewarning, breached his contract with JDub Records (with a term of three years remaining), and dropped the non-profit independent label which shaped his image, cultivated his talent, and propelled him to stardom. What they haven’t reported is that he’s signed a management deal with a major Hollywood talent agent — Gary Gersh, the man who “discovered” Nirvana and presently manages the Foo Fighters.
Indeed, for well over a week now, I’ve been sitting on the knowledge that the men who broke their backs to make him a star, Aaron Bisman and Jacob Harris, have been hung out to dry by a man I now recognize to be a false prophet of our own making, who traded in his most devout “true believers” merely to maximize his cashflow potential.
His motivations are summed up succinctly in a recent Billboard magazine profile:

[W]hile the 26-year-old artist is devoutly religious, he is not letting that stand in the way of getting his music heard. “Who doesn’t want success?” he asks. “There’s some artists that say they don’t, and they’re not looking for it, but I’m not one of those artists.”

So much for “I owe it all to G-d.”
I do not say lightly, that there is no chasid where there is no chesed, and to those of us who have been Matisyahu’s most committed supporters, this is a turn most unkind. The news was delivered to JDub with no more than a curt and unexpected phonecall. As The Times reports, “He said, ‘I don’t know if you guys are old enough or have enough experience.'” I struggle to ascertain what more success he could envision, beyond what JDub has already delivered.
As some of you may know, I am the first to have ever written about Matisyahu. I designed his first fliers, leaked his first MP3, built and managed his website, and both followed and promoted his career every step of the way via Jewschool and other online forae, helping to craft the myth surrounding a man I once believed to be our generation’s musical Moshe Rabbeinu, destined to lead us to The Promised Land. In that time I have withheld all criticism, defended him from naysayers, and perpetuated his hagiography for the sake of his success alone.
I stand before you today a remorseful Dr. Frankenstein.
To be honest, I sometimes agree with Matisyahu’s critics, and for a while now his performances have left me wanting. But I have held my tongue. Because there are times — times when Matis draws down all the fury of heaven and delivers a performance with such clarity, such focus, such kavanah, that I am moved to tears. It was only days before I learned this tragic news, that I wistfully posted to Orthodox Anarchist lyrics which tug upon my every heartstring.
When Matis came to Jerusalem this past summer, I said in a video interview just after his Saturday night performance, “He is like a grand rebbe, and his fans, his chassidim, who climb on top of one another for the shrayim from his dinnerplate.” That night I davened maariv with Matisyahu, and gave him a brocha that he “should be a shaliach of the Moshiach himself.”
Little did I know then that he’d take that to mean Menacham Mendel Schneerson, and that he would sell his truest lovers and supporters down the river for what he probably sees as an opportunity to shill for Chabad to an even wider audience. His breach of contract is a clear violation of halakha, but it would be no surprise to me if he had been given a heter from his rav for the sake of spreading Chabad chassidus.
The last three years for Matisyahu have been nothing less than miraculous. He has gone from playing half-empty nightclubs in New York City to playing for sold-out crowds at Madison Square Garden, and headlining with his own musical heroes like Phish’s Trey Anastasio and Bob Marley’s backup band, The Wailers. JDub parlayed his success into a major label deal with Epic and Matis now reigns atop Billboard’s rock and reggae charts, with his video currently in MTV’s rotation, and his latest release, Youth, expected to enter the charts this week in the Top 10.
While I marvel at his success, and wish to be proud that I had some part in making it happen, I can only watch in horror and disappointment as he presses a knife firmly into the back of the man squarely responsible for his stardom — the man under whose chuppah I once watched him sing: Aaron Bisman. What should be a time of simcha and pure joy is now overcast by the shadow of gut-wrenching heartbreak.

Matisyahu sings beneath Aaron Bisman’s wedding canopy.

Now I can no longer listen to his music without being overcome with illness. His lyrics, which I have memorized from countless listening hours, spontaneously burst into my head, and I now shed tears unlike those which I shed before — tears of sadness and betrayal — as I prepare to watch this callous industry eviscerate the soul from his music and turn his sweet chassidishe melodies into nothing more than shallow corporate commodities, with my musical Messiah a willing participant.
As Morpheus declares, in The Matrix Reloaded, upon the breach of Zion’s walls — which tumble down along with his hopes of Messianic redemption — “I have dreamed a dream, and now that dream is gone from me.”

94 thoughts on “Honor Not A False Messiah

  1. and why wouldn’t he take it to mean Sneerson. He is a Chabad! Honor not any Messiahs. Who needs em? Anyway, I hope Decker makes him his hedonism project.

  2. Well, Mobis,
    I expect more of Matisyahu. I think he should have done more then just say, bye. It seems he is no better then other artists.
    Now, I have just learned who you are. Let me just say this:
    1- I’m against everything you represent as an anarchist.
    2- I think you are one of Israel’s problems. Israel has enough enemies from the outside, we don’t need more enemies from the inside.
    3- The fact that your “art” litters the streets means that you care about no one but yourself.
    So it’s funny the way you talk about how you feel bad Matisyahu has left you and back stabbed you. Coz you are back stabbing Israel and the Jews…

  3. 1. you have no idea what i represent. given the chance, you may discover we have more in common that you might imagine.
    2. i’m not the one firebombing cop cars and assasinating prime ministers. i oppose the occupation on torah principles, rather than abuse torah to justify human rights violations.
    3. street art is the final bastion of public expression in a society dominated by corporate media and controlled art spaces (museums). if i went around town writing my tag everywhere, then it would be egotistical. but i don’t do that. i make art.

  4. 1. you maybe be right.
    2. take a look at : , I guess you may have no problem with what you’ll see there coz u consider these jews as ur enemies. (and yes I wish all the worst to these cops on the video)
    I am a very pround ex Isreali soldier. Arabs have been killing jews since there were jews and arabs living together. it has nothing to do with Israel. why do u think my parents run away from Yamman? Israel is the LAST safe heaven for jews. I realy could talk about this all day, but i really need to get to work.

  5. Nothing new under the sun… as soon as most persormers find success (especially musicians), the agents come calling and offer better deals and promises of better exposure – better PR connections, record label deals, packaging offers. It’s very, very rare that people stay with their original management. The exception, rather than the rule. Doesn’t mean you’re wrong to be upset – it’s a jerky thing to do (to be kind). But everyone does it, and if he cares about spreading his message, let alone his career, 9 times out of 10 he’d be crazy not to. Loyalty is the better choice, but it’s rare. And Chabad… well… the medium is just as much a part of the message and I think has been for years now.
    If it helps any, according to The Simpsons, the Gersh Agency only sends their clients dry crumbly zucchini muffins (presumably treif)…

  6. *sigh* And to to think I’ve defended Matis in the past. To say that I’m disappointed would be a huge understatement.

  7. Dan, I’m so sorry that you’ve had to experience this. It’s obviously heartbreaking for you. It’s an unfortunate life-lesson, one that I learned long ago – nearly everyone has feet of clay. However, you can still feel positively about your participation in his success. Without question, he has inspired many people over the past few years, and you are at least partly (perhaps largely) responsible. You’ve helped to sow a lot of seeds; take comfort in that.

  8. boo-fucking-hoo, mobius. dollars to donuts, you’d do the same if you had artistic talent worthy of a multimillion dollar career. as if bisman and harris feel hurt or shocked — they had a sweet ride on the gravy train, but you can’t be a one-trick pony in the record business, or in any business for that matter. “hung out to dry?” yeah, right. i’m sure they’re crying on each others’ shoulders all the way to the bank. i love how you post, post, post about Matis’ eternal awesomeness, preach the universality of his message and bust your buns to get it out there, but then when his career takes its natural trajectory (which you’d been hoping for all along), you act all hurt and eternally hate him. grow up, whiny little biatch!

  9. I have to second “matityahu” This is very upsetting. After I read the Times article I was listening to Youth and it actually felt different. No one has defended Matisyahu in the JBlog world as much as I, but this is big. This changes everything.

  10. well, you’ve certainly earned your name, chazar. i’m sorry that derech eretz is such a quaint novelty in your book.
    i don’t eternally hate matis. in fact, my friends and i davened for him this shabbos, and asked g-d to help him to see his error and to do teshuva.
    as for aaron’s feelings, don’t tell me how aaron feels. i know how my friend feels, and i know what type of financial issues jdub has been struggling with. they are by no means living high on the hog, contrary to popular opinion, and they are very hurt that he didn’t even have the chesed to discuss the matter with them. jdub is a non-profit label. its sole purpose is to invigorate jewish culture. it does not share the same priorities as for-profit labels, though helping its artists secure parnassah is a priority. jdub’s bottom-line is not dollars and cents. it’s a thriving jewish community.
    your take is highly cynical, and dare i say, rings with the tone of amalek in the truest carlebachian sense.

  11. Yo, chazarmaveth, I don’t think Mo is begrudging Matisyahu for letting his career “take its natural trajectory.” It’s how he did it that’s the problem. Even if Gersh offered him multiple gajillions of dollars, a real mensch, when approached by the slick Hollywood producer type, would have at least insisted that his management team, the people who got him to that position, still be involved in some way (sort of like when he got picked up by Sony). Instead, it seems he just kind of said “fuck you guys” and traipsed off with three years left on his contract. Which is, of course, immoral, illegal and a breach of halakha.
    But whatever. I’ve never been Matisyahu’s Numba Wan Supporter anyway, although I did like his first albums. However, Youth isn’t particularly good, and 10 bucks says Matisyahu’s next album will be overproduced up the ass, feature crack studio musicians instead of his band, and be loaded to the gills with unnecessary guest appearances from Gwen Stefani and Ziggy Marley. You know, the Santana Model. And then he’ll be right back to where he started.

  12. “a real mensch, when approached by the slick Hollywood producer type, would have at least insisted that his management team, the people who got him to that position, still be involved in some way”
    I’m reminded of Letterman, who, when he switched networks (to make a lot more money), took his entire production staff with him. When the train comes in, everybody rides.
    Moby, what do you mean by “the tone of amalek in the truest carlebachian sense”?

  13. reb shlomo taught that amalek is the place of darkness inside of ourselves which tries to blot out the presence of g-d in the world and in our lives. amalek is a cynic. the one who says “no, you can’t.” the one who loathes and tramples upon emunah, who callously dismisses the light of hashem. ie., he is the official player hater.

  14. “Be not selfish in your doings. Pass it on.”
    Man, that is wack and very disappointing. And I thought being good and honest to people was one of the things that make one Jewish. So sorry for you Mo, and the whole JDUB crew.

  15. Mobius,
    i’m 35, a baal teshuva, a husband, a father and a middle school language arts teacher at an orthodox school. back in grad school i worked in a popular record store in south beach and wrote for various publications, so i had a lot of opportunities to meet with label folks, struggling artists, and various signed musicians. i learned a lot about the treachery of their world. the music business is basically a series of opportunities to escape getting screwed. if you escape enough times, perhaps you can rise to some level of success. when i listen to matis with my kids or talk about him with students, the business side of things is inconsequential, a non-issue. his success doesn’t matter much to my 7 year old. just that these are cool songs with jewish themes. when arise first came out, the songs sparked inumerable torah conversations. even my 4 yr old daughter asks questions like, “is it true that hashem will throw me a rope?” you don’t get that deep with uncle moishy. when i was 7, my musical heroes were kiss. my kids have matis. some of my students are so into him they want to use his lyrics for poetry assignments (i’ve let them, of course). i can’t say good bye to that over something i know now as a grown-up is a natural part of the wicked world he is traipsing through.
    BH, he has a long career ahead of him making spiritual music and being a positive front for judaism. you set a great example when you say you and your friends prayed for him (although, i think there’s a lot of other things more pertinent to pray for, but that’s another kind of post…). when i was younger, i would have called him a sell-out, pined for the lost opportunity of a true-jew artist, and probably bad-mouthed him with my crew. but, as much as i dislike this news and as disappointed as i am at how this is all being handled, i don’t see this as so shocking a move by a rising young star in the music business. these are your friends-it’s a personal issue-so i understand your distress and anger. but as a life-long music fan with two H-loving yid-kids in tow, i won’t drop him because of this. who knows? perhaps your prayers will be answered and he’ll see the error of his ways, apologize to the jdub crew, and mend. we don’t know the pressure he’s under these days… not that that is an excuse for how he handled the management change. personally, i’m not upset by his desire to succeed and sing songs for as long as he can. i don’t see this as supplanting the ‘i owe it al to Gd’ sentiments. sure, this could have been handled much better. folks make mistakes, mob. i think he made a mistake in doing this. perhaps he deserves a reprimand. but i won’t drop him for it. he’s done too much good for me personally, my family, friends, students, and many fans around the world.
    perhaps you can write him a personal note expressing your disappointment. maybe he’d be willing to explain himself.

  16. I was always suspicious of Matis. My kid brother went to high school with him,
    [snip. I just realized I was about to do lashon hara in the most blatant awful way.]
    and the point is I’m glad Dan is sharing his feelings with this community. We can offer our support and recognize that betrayal really is awful, we’ve all been there, and if it is ever relevant, we can affirm our values by NOT letting it simply slide.
    Chazar, what a silly attack on Dan for being an anarchist…. the idea of using a label to describe him is so silly – OBVIOUSLY he transcends labels and is following a path to be true to himself. Agree or disagree, we are priveleged to listen in on his search. Your words come across as dark and fearful, as though some gate is opening and you wish it would remained closed. How sad for you. Go buy the new Matis CD.

  17. No one in the know believes JDUB is down and out. They have many of the best acts in the Jewish Music scene, and have a brilliant future ahead of them.
    This is not a ‘Broadway Danny Rose’ situation in any way shape or form.
    BTW — Big Mazel for adding Golem to the JDUB family. Brilliant move, for all parties.

  18. The music biz is such a slimy place – a true test of one’s character. Certainly Mati’s success is such that it’s understandable he would want to move to the majors – but – there are right ways and wrong ways (ethically speaking) to break a contract. There are many ways to “throw a bone” to the previous management…

  19. it’s just irresponsible journalism, that’s all. if it’s personal, mobius, say so — say that you’re hurt, that your pals are hurt, but don’t grandstand on some high moral horse and set everyone up to do a switcheroo on matis just because you don’t understand something that he did. do you know *exactly* why matis did all this? how do you know it’s all “to maximize his cashflow potential?” how do you know that he’s not planning to cut his pals in some other way? that he feels no remorse or mixed emotions? that’s a pretty “cynical” outlook you’ve got there, bro. it also feels kinda laced with (dare i say it?!?) lashon hara. why don’t you do your own teshuva and get back to us with some more responsible journalism.
    p.s. charles… it wasn’t me attacking anyone as an anarchist… that was “Matisyahu lyrics.”

  20. No, chazar, it’s a shit thing to do. The folks at JDUB put in work, they built with him, they helped make him who he became. They gave him support, a platform, and a hand in putting it all together.
    When you build with people, leaving them like this is a complete failure of humanity. It is one of THE definitions of selling out. when you abandon the people that helped make you a success, it’s called selling out.
    For all the time, energy, effort and love Mo has put into helping that guy, he’s got every right to be upset about it. Even more so, for all the postive pub Mo’s given him, i think Mo’s got every right to put him on blast for what he’s done. And for you to call him names about it is childish.

  21. Saw Matis Sun. night in Houston. Balkan Beat Box was much more fun than Matis , I have to say…I love all the artists on Jdub, except So Called, who I call So not original!

  22. Oh boy. I just heard about this via Harry–while I’m really sorry to hear about the dissolution of this particular partnership, I can’t say that I’m surprised. Artists want their work to be heard, and at some point you need to decide whether you’re going to work with the people who have a proven, time-tested history of making that kind of success happen or if you’re going to stay with the loyal friends/family who supported you in the early stages. It’s not an easy decision, and I’m not saying that this move was the right or wrong one, financially or morally, because that’s not my role. The comparison to Letterman doesn’t really work, I don’t think, because it’s not the same level of industry leverage.
    Not like I’m remotely in the same industry or boat as Matisyahu, but I wonder–if the choices were staying with the familiar, but ultimately probably limited, or trading that in for a shot at the big time, what would I do? And if the message is the thing, then does the ends of acquiring a larger audience and being able to influence a larger number of people justify whatever means is necessary (within limits, of course, not talking about murder or anything)?
    In any case, whether this was the right decision or not, clearly feelings have been hurt, and the feeling is one of betrayal. And that sucks. So my heart goes out to the JDub people and to Mobius…here’s hoping that wherever Matisyahu goes next it will be somewhere that will enable him to do right by the friends who supported him.

  23. I realize that it isn’t precisely the same situation as Letterman; it’s just similar enough that it reminded me of it. I think that I brought it up because of something that someone else had said about giving the JDub people a piece of the action.
    The thing is – as Dan said, and as a couple of people have reiterated, Matis is breaking a legal contract, which is contrary to halakhah (in addition to civil law). Although I agree that we have no way of knowing what kind of pressure he’s under (although Dan, given his relationship with JDub, is in a much better position to know), this would appear to violate everything that he is supposed to represent. I am not frum, so I can only surmise the kind of effect that this will have within the Orthodox world, particularly on his younger fans. I think that everything that Boruch Dovid said about his influence on kids is plausible (I agree as well about the music industry being a sewer). I have to think that this sends the wrong message. Hell, I’m a JuBu – I worship idols, and even I get it!

  24. precisely. he’s a chosid. he’s not supposed to be “that guy.” and to capitalize on the ideal of being a chosid without actually being one is devious.

  25. I saw this yesterday and almost posted on it but saw that Mobius and others far closer to the situation had not, so I waited.
    Esther’s comments are right on – but the major difference between Matisyahu and her or any of the rest of us, I think, is that had any one of us been in Matisyahu’s enivable position, s/he would have said, “Look, I value how far you’ve brought me, and I’m going to honor the financial terms of your contract. I need more experienced management, but that doesn’t mean I’m just going to leave you at the side of the road. You’re my friends and that means a lot to me.”
    And a generous person might have said, “For the albums, major stadium events and MSM appearances, I’ve decided I need experienced management, but, I’ll retain you as my managers for Jewish community and other non-profit gigs. ”
    OR “Yeah, I’m getting a new manager, but since I got started with JDub, I’ll contribute 2% of my profits to JDub” (and it’s tax-deductible, too.”
    Based on the way the story is written, it looks like Aaron and Jacob were the ones who went to the NYT with the story, probably with substantial misgivings about whether they were doing the right thing. Something tells me that they’ve been trying to work this out in a private, sensitive, halakhic way, and that this massive publicity was very much a last resort, taken only reluctantly, probably at the urging of the JDub board of directors which is by (secular) law obligated to defend JDub’s financial interests.

  26. p.s. posting the last 2 comments, i hadn’t read the entire article. oops. so much for responsible readership. heh.
    i don’t feel all that different about the issue having read the article, though mobius’ pain does come through more clearly after reading the whole thing.
    i am sorry for your pain, dude, and i don’t mean to marginalize your feelings, but you just present no solid evidence whatsoever for any of the motives that you ascribe to matis’ actions. that he’s doing it all for the cash, for the Lubavitcher Rebbe or for the glory of Chabad — prove it, man! prove it with the man’s own words! then i’ll move over to your side. otherwise, he’s just done what millions of pop star assholes have done before him. what made him any different beforehand? he wasn’t world-famous yet.
    and let’s be honest — a “false Messiah?” did you *really* ever think this guy was a “true Messiah?” for real? perhaps that’s why my words come across as so “dark and fearful…” because a world in which the pop stars are the only viable messianic candidates is a sad world indeed…

  27. i didn’t think he was “moshiach” per se; i thought he was a true mentsch — a chosid. and i believed in what i thought was his true and honest mission to bring truth and light into this world. i believed in his potential to shatter klippot. instead he brought down more sheker.

  28. meh. i think the guy is young and made a bad decision. he’ll work it out on the couch in his thirties.
    saw him last night though at purimpalooza and the gig was hot. or maybe i was just completely shitfaced. oh yeah. that’s right, i was.

  29. B”H
    nu? so far nothing has changed. JDub is still selling his CDs, his website still bares the the JDub logo. Besides, in all truth, he’s not the most exciting person off stage, he didn’t seem interested in anything i was saying to him (the power of his music, how great it is etc..) I’m not gonna hold too much against him (yet). And it’s definately not gonna stop me from davening Chabad or stop me from going to my local Chabad house every shabbos (and in case you didn’t know, not ALL lubavitchers think that the rebbe was/is Moshiach)

  30. Here’s the thing – if Matis broke a legally binding contract, then Aaron and Jacob will be compensated, believe you me. I’ve drafted management contracts, and that’s pretty standard. Matis must think that this move will be so successful he can afford to pay the JDub team and his new handler, sorry, manager.
    Ethically, morally…working with the people that have put their heart and soul into making your success possible seems to be the right thing.
    But we never know what goes on behind closed doors. One of my close friends recently signed a multiple album deal with XXX. And she fired her manager shortly afterwards. She loved him, and he had worked with her when she was playing shitty clubs, and she wouldn’t have been in a position to get a contract if it weren’t for him. But he wasn’t able to work with the people he needed to work with on her new level. And that’s that – being a touring musician is incredibly hard work, and incredibly draining. Your management needs to be able to take care of things the way YOU as a musician want them taken care of. And Matis obviously decided that JDub wasn’t working for him, for whatever reason.

  31. So what do we have here – a management team let go by a rising star in favor of someone with more mainstream experience. Happpens all the time – it’s the nature of the beast. If the JDub crew really were good friends they’d give Matisyahu their blessing because what he did was absolutely the right thing to do. Are Bisman and Harrris right to be peeved? Hell yeah – a continuing relationship with Matisyahu would have been a big cash cow for them and JDub. But don’t give me this betrayal of friends shit. He gave them a call, he dropped them, they’re going to sue – friends don’t sue friends – ever.
    I mean wtf? Amalek? Judas?? Holy crap! Matisyahu spent shabat with us at Jewlicious @ the beach and he was quiet, soft spoken and extremely modest. All this is total bellyaching and it is embarassing. I wish all parties involved the best, the JDub crew and Matisyahu. As for the rest of you… sheesh.. Chill out!
    OK, now to get this EV dude drunk. Oh and I have to kill Kelsey tonight too so that I can prove that I am in fact NOT a Hellenist.

  32. Well, honestly, even though I am dissapointed in this action, this isn’t going to make me like the music any less.
    Sure, he messed up. For whatever reason he did it, I just hope he finds some way to make amends with his longtime friends.
    BTW, you can’t just say “business is business”…there are halachot for business…a great deal of them actually.
    I SURELY hope there wasn’t a heter given for such an action.

  33. I have to agree with Yana here. It’s good to be a mensch and help the people who have helped you get where you are, but not when doing so is keeping you from achieving your (reasonable) goals. Nothing in what I read suggested that Matis was not a mensch. As was noted, JDub wil undoubtedlyl be financially compensated, and the fact that one artist was such a major part of their business is ultimately not that artist’s problem. He needs to work with the people that will help his art and his career grow. And it’s not really anybody’s place to determine who those people are besides himself.
    If JDub is big about it, I’m sure they can develop a positive working relationship with him. He could produce albums for other artists on their label, guest rap, etc. Why burn the bridge? It sucks for them, no doubt, but I think the character shredding that I’ve seen on this thread is unfounded (at least based on the reporting I’ve read thus far). When major artists leave their labels, it’s seen as business as usual– JDub is small, and their people are nice and good and we like them, but really, it’s business as usual. I think it’s really unfair of people to expect Matisyahu to uphold some ideal of “goodness” (or, uh, “hesed”) when that expectation is probably self serving. Ethically, at this point, he’s OK in my book.

  34. What did you really expect?
    He’s in this world to make his mark and he’s doing so accordingly. If you expected him to not sacrifice anything of his music for Money, you’re a bigger fool than he.
    Your idiotic fault for believing in anybody but YOURSELF to bring Heaven to Earth, to spread the word and the ideas that you so heartedly believe in. Don’t blame it on Matisyahu because he didn’t live up to every single person’s illusionary expectations. He is living his life and despite the fact that he changed his sound a bit and decided to pursue making a living out of his Art (what a dream, eh?!), he’s still the beautiful Soul that first touched you when he first hit the scene. All things must pass and change is the ONLY Constant. So stop whining and appreciate him for what he Is, not what you wanted him to Be.

  35. all these “what he did was a-okay” remarks prove to me is that your ethical compasses are FUCKED. STOP! this is the guy who said my career is in g-d’s hands, i’d be nowhere without g-d, and i do this for g-d. not, “a nigga’s gotta eat son! whatever stands in my way, fuck that noise!” you want to put him in the category of every other musician who’s trying to make a buck, be my guest. but that just makes him another worthless sellout in my book, just another a careerist. and the reason why i suported him for all these years was, again, because he wasn’t supposed to be that guy. he was supposed to lead a revolution in the industry.
    in other words, the jewish people: “a light onto the nations” or “a people like any other.” which is your ideal?

  36. “this is the guy who said my career is in g-d’s hands, i’d be nowhere without g-d, and i do this for g-d.”
    What about this is contradictory to making money? Are you Christian or something?

  37. “you want to put him in the category of every other musician who’s trying to make a buck, be my guest.”
    dude. the guy has a bunch of flashy music videos on MTV, has appeared on Kimmel, Letterman, is headlining a sold-out concert tour; he stepped into that category all by himself — none of us put him there. revolution, shmevolution. right now it’s his face singing from the big glowing mesmerizing box in the living room, tomorrow it’ll be someone else’s. 10-to1, he’s got some coke/nike endorsements lined up behind our backs right now.
    but here’s the news, moby: everyone else knew that’s *exactly* where this thing was headed — a new novelty for our novelty-driven consumer culture. it’s quaint that you profess to having had higher expectations of him, but it’s time to stop being so darn melodramatic and to just adopt the trademark cynicism that gives hipster Judaism its o-so-sterling reputation.

  38. Mob– I’ve always loved your idealism, and yes I think we should strive to be a light. But my comments are from an artist’s POV. I really don’t understand why you’re equating “G-d’s hands” with “JDub’s hands”. There’s spirituality and there’s tachlis, and if he’s uncomfortable in a business relationship, I don’t get how doing what’s right for his life and his art and his career makes him a sellout– nowhere did I read that he flung obnoxious language at JDub or anything like what you wrote, but rather expressed his legitimate discomfort. I think you’re either too close to it to see both sides or you know a lot of stuff that you’re not publishing. And if that’s the case, just tell us you know other stuff, and we’ll leave it at that.

  39. Mobius,
    You are dissappointed that Matisyahu is not being a light unto the nations. He has somehow let down Judaism and Klal yisroel for breaking his contract. One of the ways that we act as a light onto the nations is by giving people the benefit of the doubt. Dan L’kaf zchut is not just a motto on peice of paper, it is something we need to live by. Until one is in another’s shoes there is no way to judge. There is always more to situation than we know.
    I can tell you that the words you say about Chabad are hurtful. Matisyahu outgrew playing for Chabad Houses a long time ago. But, I do not hold it against him. Because, while I would love to have him on campus, when it comes time to pay his kids dayschool tuition we will not be standing in line to help. It is easy to be mean and cynical. It takes more effort but is ultimately more gratifying to be positive.

  40. Its funny because JDUB did the exact same thing to the Chabad House Shluchim:
    The Shluchim were one of the first ones to first bring out Matis around the country, advertising his concerts, bringing in students, and helping to spread his music.
    Last year the tour was mostly sponsored by Chabad Houses, including the infamous Live at Stubbs sponsored by Chabad at Austin.
    Then what happened; Matis grew big and booking him became expensive and he naturally outgrew the shluchim. From what I’ve heard a lot of Shlucim were very upset with JDUB. Once he got too big they basically ignored the Shluchim even those that were willing to pay the exorbinant costs. There was never any discounts for them and many phone calls were left unreturned.
    So I guess what goes arond comes around. Matis has outgrown JDUB and now they are whinning. If you really think all of the success was due to you and JDUB then how come So called and Balkan Beat Box aren’t as big. Obviously Matis is something special and you guys were luck enough to ride on the tail of his Kapattah. This enabled you to promote some of the other work you guys are doing.

  41. helping to craft the myth surrounding a man I once believed to be our generation’s musical Moshe Rabbeinu, destined to lead us to The Promised Land.
    Well geez mob, thinking THAT highly of someone you’re sure to be let down at some point.
    Withholding all criticism – why? You would yell at someone for lacking the eyes to see Israel’s faults as well as her beauties, so why did you allow yourself to see and present nothing but white and purity?
    He’s not a prophet, he’s no grand rebbe, he’s a musician. I’m sorry you are so hurt to find out he’s also human and has to look out for his best interests.


  43. Isn’t it too early to even comment? Let’s wait for what Matisyahu himself has to say. Isn’t he your friend, Mob? Have you spoken to him lately?

  44. But don’t give me this betrayal of friends shit. He gave them a call, he dropped them, they’re going to sue – friends don’t sue friends – ever.
    Sorry CK, I don’t buy that line at all. Friends don’t drop friends out of the blue, friends don’t breach their word. His word. Doesn’t that matter?
    I said this after the times review and I’ll say it again. How many people would be listening to him if he was just Matt Miller in a very good reggae band? Part of his success is because of who he is and now he doesn’t even have that anymore. And along with that being gone is the one reason I was pulling for him succeed, because I was hopeful he was different.

  45. blah…blah…blah…
    the guys isn’t very talented, and for anyone to think he is a “Messiah”, is fucking crazy!

  46. It is odd, because all along I have found my favorite lyric of Matis’s to be “You want Gd but you can’t deflate your ego.”

  47. So he fired everybody right? Moses said, “Let my people go” and it seems Matis really took that one to heart.

  48. when i’m cynical about god, torah, judaism, tzaddikism, emunah, etc., etc., etc., i’m a callous self-hating hipster.
    when i actually believe in someone and something, when i invest my faith in my fellow jew, the purity of his motive, and the truth of his words, i’m a fool and a crybaby.
    fuck all of you hypocrites.

  49. It had to happen evetually.
    Matis is gonna climb real high and come crashing down to the lowest of the low, and when he does I wonder what he expects to happen. No comeback for him. Aint gonna happen. Matisyahu was and always will be a gimmick. He’ll come and go like every other explosion the world of pop music has seen.
    Oh well.

  50. Mobius, i can understand your deep hurt, but what does that have to do with knocking Chabad (and his “Yechi” track is well over a couple of years old – heard it before Shake..was released)

  51. #
    It is odd, because all along I have found my favorite lyric of Matis’s to be “You want Gd but you can’t deflate your ego.”
    Comment by Rachel — March 15, 2006 @ 1:08 pm

    There are many authors of that line!

  52. I dont see why it is so hard for so many of you to see. There are plenty of success cases where the artists DONT fuck over the people that helped them get big. Against Me!, Chumbawamba, and the (International) Noise Conspiracy are great examples. They went from playing shitty DIY spaces that smelled like punk (patulli, b.o., and booze) to selling out crowds of thousands.
    On a side not to chazarmaveth, I specifically picked the above acts to mention BECAUSE they are anarchists or have anarchist principles.

  53. Alter Kocker Punk Rocker: Of the three bands you mention, Chumbawumba (not Chumbawamba) is the one that has had the most mainstream success – and not on the strength of their Anarchist leanings but rather on the basis of one very lame hit song, “Tubthumpin” (The I get knocked down song) which has devolved into a frat boy and soccer hooligan anthem celebrating drunken excess – a far cry from the band’s ideals.
    Your plea for decency is actually a call for artists to carefully and steadfastly guard the integrity of their carreers lest they, like Chumbawumba, become condemned to playing their one lame hit song for decades after their moment of glory has come and gone. Matisyahu did the right thing – maybe he could have done it in a better manner, but JDub Records helped Matisyahu and by extension, Matisyahu’s success will help JDub. At this point in his career though, continuing to retain a non-profit record and event production company as his management is a bad carreer move. And if JDub wanted what was best for Matisyahu, they would admit that. I guess all they can do now is wait for the big payoff in the form of a settlement between the legal teams. The way this thing plays out will definitely show us who is greedy and who is not.

  54. I think i mentioned it here on a comments thread on this blog some 2 years ago – and got flack for it, that based on my personal interaction with the man during the summer of 2004 during a gig for sick children, right before the release of his first album when only a handful of people had even known who he was, that his personality sucked. Truthfully, there’s alot I don’t know so I wont say I told you so, and due to the harsh loshon hora factor I wont discuss the incident. But as i said then, he can go on a thousand jimmy kimmels and make a hundred kiddush hashems saying “aint gonna work on saturday” not for 10 million dollaz, but obviously, the man aint no mensch.

  55. While I agree that it was wrong for him to do what he did, I don’t think it had anything to do with chabad, and am frankly offended by the thought.
    As you yourself quote that he is wanting of success, more CDs = more greenbacks. It has nothing to do with spreading chabad chasidus, and I doubt he asked his rav beforehand.

  56. Most musicians sell out the first time they get an endorphin rush playing or singing for other people. With some it’s a free beer, with others, a pretty girl who comes back to see them every week.
    Very few musicians stay on small independent labels once they reach gold and platinum sales levels. Alison Krause has stayed with Rounder in spite of very lucrative offers to sign with a major, but she’s in the minority and Rounder is huge compared to JDub.
    As for musicians being leaders, just remember
    Don’t follow leaders watch your parking meters.

  57. Even if you’re not a fan, you have to roll your eyes. Sure, the music biz has shady aspects. Sure, artists want respect. Yes, bad biz behavior does fly in the face of halacha, so it should be a problem for an observant yid like Matis. But even pious Jews aren’t perfect, so its not completely out of the realm of possible, its just surprising.
    Its more surprising because these were his friends and the people who made his success happen. It was a cold dish he served, made colder by the manner. Set up a meeting. Do it over a meal. Take care of them in your new contract. A phone call? this wasn’t a second date- it was a three year relationship that realized this man’s dream. So it was a betrayal not just of jdub, but of Matis’ true nature and somewhat selfish motivation.
    I empathize with Mobius and Aaron and Jacob. It sucks, and sure it hurts their bottom line, but I’m sure that it stings more because they busted their asses to make him successful, and believed in him not only as an artist on their roster, but as a friend. And this is how he repaid them. Mobius’ reaction isn’t unwarranted.
    Likewise, because many held Matis up as a model of artistic and Jewish authenticity, this stings. Its because that same combination of factors they found appealing are the ones he seems to violate with his new album and new management. Its not just a contract with jdub he violated, in some ways, he violated the unspoken contract every artist has with their fans, and in this case they were his oldest core fans.
    But what do you expect from a guy who’s been BT for just a couple years and star for even less… That yetzer hara he sings about got the better of him. He might have been a warrior for his soul, but warriors don’t always win their battles.

  58. If it makes you feel any better, and I suspect it won’t, Matisyahu in aligning himself with Gersh has made a deal with the devil. I’ve spent 20 years as a musician, mostly independent, but the five years on major labels with major players was a terrible education and nearly destroyed my soul. I know Gersh. And his ilk. They divide to conquer, have no loyalty and love nothing more than money. If Matisyahu doesn’t move the units he’s expected to, they won’t catch him when he falls, or return his calls. From chasid to has-been. And another thing I know from experience, Matis undoubtedly had the chance to do the right thing by his friends and supporters. He chose not to. Other artists have had similar opportunities and moved on in an honorable fashion, without hurting their friends. I’m sad that a man I admired is not what he seemed to be. But hardly surprised. Bummer for you, though.

  59. Matisyahu has been steadily gaining respect from the Reggae Community. This is evident as we take note of his headlining positions at all of the Raggamuffins Festivals in California during the month of February. These headlining slots are traditionally reserved for Jamaica’s finest. For 25 years, reggae fans have flocked to these huge festivals, which pay tribute to Reggae icon, Bob Marley.
    At the Long Beach festival, Matisyahu was joined on stage by reggae’s official messenger, Luciano. Both of these artists send a positive message of goodness, spirituality and one love. To see them on stage together – one representing Judaism, the other, Rastafari sent a unified message for members of all religions.
    In San Diego, Jamaica’s legendary, Barrington Levy called Matisyahu on stage to join him in song. The unrehearsed improv on the mic from both of them was amazing. Barrington with his signature “diddly diddly ooooh” and Matisyahu with his Hasidic chanting were a delightful combination. The members of Barrington’s backing band, Detour Posse, smiled wide as they witnessed Matisyahu ride the rhythm like a pro.
    In Santa Cruz, German Reggae Superstar, Gentleman linked up with Matisyahu to perform a song or two. Matisyahu’s human beat box provided the backdrop for Gentleman’s energetic Dj style. Audiences were captivated each time one of these historic duets was taking place.
    In Kansas City, Matisyahu invited up and coming American reggae singer, Joseph Israel ( to join him for a spontaneous duet. They wrote the song together during the sound check. A roots reggae anthem aimed at exposing Babylon and its corruption. It is called “Away with This”.
    Matisyahu and Joseph Israel are now planning to record the song together. Israel joined Matisyahu March 11, in Austin at Stubb’s for the commemoration of the widely acclaimed recording of “LIVE AT STUBBS” and March 12 in Houston.
    Joseph Israel and Matisyahu will be on stage together again tonight in St. Louis.
    It’s nice to witness this kind of cross-cultural cooperation and collaboration. All in the spirit of unity and one love, reggae music keeps the global community connected.

  60. What part does theology have to do with all this?
    We could say, of course, there’s good people and bad people… and alot of what we justify to ourselves, our standards and true values are learned, studied… Our practices tell us about what it is that we really believe.
    So when someone religious does something baddish, it could very well be that they have a moral self jutification. Yes, I did it for the money. But where is the money going?
    Does anyone out here really believe that we could make a decision as big as this without consulting our Rabbi? And once we have the approbation of Das Torah, why would anyone hungry person refuse to eat?
    Does that make Judaism bad, if encourages us to get official permission from our rabbis to do our will instead of making our autonomous moral decisions? Coventional halachic wisdom tells us that our moral senses are inferior to communally agreed principles, such as: “get the money, and just give lots of tzedaka later.”
    Now, it’s an interesting and cynical religion that holds be the realistic need to Get Money and Famous above not screwing over fellow people with whom one had an agreement. Maybe that’s what G-d really wants? Cynical pragmatic people, willing to Do What It Takes To Get by.
    Maybe that’s what Halacha wants after all.

  61. Okay, but Kallah and new son aside, give his success one would be hard pressed to say Matisyau is ‘hungry’ in the literal sense or that he is otherwise unable to provide for his family so as to resort to extreme interpretations of halacha that either justify his actions, but then again, some Rabbis wil give a heter for some pretty wild things…

  62. “the purity of his motive”
    Mobius, FYI whenever people start talking about “purity” as a sort of absolute, it makes those people sound crazy.

  63. Pingback: » Backlashyahu
  64. It’s the art, not the artist that’s important. We need to get past this idea that Jews are somehow better than others simply by being Jewish. It’s not fair to hold others or ourselves to a higher standard. Everyone needs to be held to a higher one equally.
    Anyway, selling out is nothing new to the music business. I don’t feel so bad for downloading his stuff for free anymore.

  65. I think you’re being a bit petty.
    Anyone that’s an artist or anyone that enters the music business wants some level of success.
    Matisyahu is just moving on to the next level.
    Don’t begrudge him be happy for him and just think of the broader audience his music will now reach.
    It’s not personal its business.

  66. I need to modify my original stance somewhat. I still believe that artists ultimately have the right to choose those business partners that they feel will best help them grow artistically and professionally.
    But, upon further reading and reflection, it appears that in this instance Matisyahu didn’t give JDub a fair shake. He may still have decided to sever the partnership, but he should have had a meeting or two with them to air his concerns and explain his options. Sometimes business arrangements don’t work out, but I too have felt trampled once or twice, and what it usually amounts to is inadequate communication– someone making unilateral decisions without respecting or acknowledging others’ efforts or time is a recipie for bad feelings.
    So, while I still hold that business is business, and an artist has to work for their best interest (which may or may not be in the best interest of their friends), the ends don’t justify the means. I think Matisyahu could’ve been more diplomatic and made for an amicable breakup.

  67. This is just awful.
    No honor. No Truth. No Dignity.
    This shows what Matisyahu holds dearest in his heart …Money.
    Jdub did an amazing job.
    I could see the change happening if the Mgm’t had failed him.
    Another horrible example of what a cesspool the music bussiness is.
    An honest forthright person wouldn’t have not done this in the week of the release of the CD.
    It’s hard now to take his spirituality seriously.

  68. What’s the real issue here? Jealousy, anger, rage, sympathy? The man wants to make music so let him be. Ethically speaking, you reap what you sow. The man’s religious identity is not my business, but the old saying holds true, what one jew does effects us all. As far as our friends at 770 are concerned, i was pissed off when the purim party i went to was sponsored by chabad. Sneaky bastards. But they did let me keep my bags for free at there house in nepal….

  69. Dan “Mobius”,
    I must admit that I feel very sorry that Matis dropped you guys. You seem very bitter.
    It must be very, very painful.
    There must be a solid reason that Matis fired JDubs Records. My guess is that it wasn’t just the $$$ issue. There must be deeper reasons.
    You can’t judge Matis, unless your in Matis’s shoes? You’ll never know all the reasons, unless Matis tells them to you. As for Matis believing that ( Rebbe Schneerson) might be the true Mashiach in the future, that seemed to really bother you. Thats the feeling I got when I read your post. Who did you expect Matis to believe in as the possible Mashiach? Rav Shach? Not! The point is a true Chassid follows his Rebbe, and according to Torah, he is even permitted to appoint his Rebbe as the potential Mashiach, not the actual one. I hope you and the JDubs staff never stopped Matis from publicly speaking about, or promoting the Rebbe & his teachings. If JDubs did restrict him, then that might be one of the deeper reasons why Matis left you guys. A Chassid always puts his Rebbe first.
    David Lazzar

  70. just another white kid with a gimmick, gettin rich off the black culture..
    the rich kid former drum circle hippie turned hasidic rasta! thats what all these dirty blonde dreaded “rastas” in america have been waiting for all along..
    the fact that this guy shook his label, manager and friends just as his career is taking off, three years left on the contract no less, to go join ranks with some Suit proves his motives.

  71. There should be freedom of speech for everyone even if they do not believe that Shneerson was a Messiah.

  72. They put a big portrait of Shneerson in a synagogue! This is idolatry!
    You can not believe in this old stupid Shnerik as a Moshiach! He could not even fart us a Moshiach! Where is a geulo? The group of old farts promotes Shnerik as a Moshiach. They are all committing the biggest crime – believe in the Unity of GOD!!!!
    They believe that Shneero-bandit was a great guy, but it is nearly proven that he was a gay. In my country we put them in prison and terminate them!

  73. Jesus (Yeshua) is a false Messiah called also “Yoshka”
    Shneerson is also a false Messiah to be called “Shnerik” (although all respect should be made to a great person whom a bunch of obscurantists people call “Messiah”

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