Hearing Aide: Matisyahu ‘Undercurrent’

Matisyahu may have found a unique niche in the Jewish reggae and hip hop scenes, and with the 2017 release of his sixth studio album Undercurrent, his religious convictions are woven into a stream of consciousness that flows between genres throughout the album. The album was described in a recent press release stating, “The vulnerability felt throughout the lyrical narrative comes from acceptance in uncertainty. “Step out into the Light” sets the tone for the record, as Matisyahu delves into a musical reframing of the Jewish philosophical differences between the constant of faith and the immediacy of trust.”

Matisyahu completed the album with a team of esteemed collaborators including some who have a long history working with Matisyahu on past projects. Aaron Dugan (guitarist), Stu Brooks (bassist), Joe Tomino (drums), Tim Keiper (drums) Cyro Baptista (percussion) and Big Yuki (keys) serve as the vehicle through which Marisyahu delivers his rhythmic remarks.

Undercurrent serves as the musical checkpoint along Matisyahu’s continued journey of seeking greater truth within himself and the world around him. “Step out into the Light” opens the album with a modern hip hop vibe. Matisyahu quickly entangles the album with religion, mentioning a dreidel in the first few lines. The lyrics are at times ambiguous but flow well. Matisyahu offers some seemingly deep philosophical musings but leaves it to the listener to fully unpack their meaning

“Coming up Empty,” is more heavily produced than much of Matisyahu’s work and may catch fans off guard. “Blue Sky Playground” is heavy on the hip hop and is the first song on the album worth a head bob or two. Halfway through, the nasty hip hop groove fades to a mellow jam which rounds out the eight-minute track. “Forest of Faith” is easygoing and pleasant on the ears with instrumentation that sounds like a tropical xylophone. “Head Right” tricks the listener into thinking its a heavy rock tune, but quickly morphs into a hip hop/reggae hybrid and flips back and forth to the rock realm. “Driftin” concludes the eight-track album with a song that could almost be split into tow separate tracks. The first half serves as a low key hip hop track akin to Dirty Heads before the last seven minutes resort to minimalist instrumentation with Matisyahu displaying his beatboxing ability. This album will certainly keep listeners on their toes.

Undercurrent drops May 19. The album is available for pre-sale on his website.

Key Tracks: Blue Sky Playground, Forest of Faith, Head Right