Like only the most gifted storytellers, Matisyahu spins the rare kind of stories that simultaneously enlighten and enthrall and expand the audience’s sense of possibility. On his eponymous new album, the Grammy Award-nominated singer/songwriter/rapper shares his most autobiographical work to date, merging that personal revelation with a shapeshifting collision of reggae and hip-hop and boldly inventive pop. Produced by Salt Cathedral (a Brooklyn-based duo comprised of Colombian musicians Juliana Ronderos and Nicolas Losada), the result is an undeniably transformative album, one that invites both intense introspection and unbridled celebration.
“Throughout my life so much of my music has come from struggling with a sort of existential loneliness, even though a lot of the music is very joyful,” says Matisyahu. “I ended up in a place where I’ve found the person who’s my soulmate and made a beautiful life with her, and that’s the place where this record was born.”
The seventh studio album from the New York artist, Matisyahu arrives as the latest achievement in an extraordinary career that’s included landing a #1 hit on alternative rock radio (with his Billboard Hot 100-charting breakthrough single “King Without a Crown”), collaborating with the likes of reggae legends Sly and Robbie, and amassing a global following largely on the strength of his transcendent live show. In bringing the album to life, Ronderos and Losada joined Matisyahu at his former home on the Hudson River in Nyack, where the three musicians soon immersed themselves in an unfettered and improvisation-fueled creative process. “Working with Juli was the first time I’ve ever had a female producer, and it influenced the record in an amazing way,” says Matisyahu, who first collaborated with Salt Cathedral on his 2016 EP Release the Bound. “I felt free to bring more sensitivity or sensuality to my vocals, and really explore the subtleties of my voice.”
Rooted in a lushly detailed yet minimalist sound, Matisyahu sheds light on the shadowy complexities of his psyche while endlessly radiating a euphoric energy. On the album’s dancehall-infused lead single “Chameleon,” for instance, he presents a potent piece of self-reflection spiked with equal parts idiosyncratic wordplay and warmly expressed wisdom (“Turn an evil eye inverted to let the light in/Illuminate the evil till dem heart get sizzlin’”). “There are some people who are like a rock, who never change, but I’ve always been able to shed my skin to fit with whatever I wanted to be part of,” says Matisyahu of the song’s origins. In a perfect counterpart to its kaleidoscopic rhythms and otherworldly textures, “Chameleon” also features a spellbinding guest verse from Ronderos, who adds her own rapturous perspective.