What do you get when you mix Hasidic reggae artist Matisyahu with My Chemical Romance video auteur Marc Webb, place them both on a stage in New York and set the whole thing during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot?
No, it’s not the setup to some bawdy barroom joke; it’s what actually went down last weekend as Matisyahu took the stage at legendary rock spot CBGB to shoot a video for “Youth,” the first single from his upcoming major-label debut.
Working with Webb — who over the past 12 months has directed videos for everyone from MCR and Incubus to Ashlee Simpson and Hilary Duff — Matis shot a performance-heavy video that still manages to be about much, much more.
“This whole music project started off by performing and doing shows, really interacting with the audience, and that’s what we do best, so that’s what the video captures,” Matisyahu told MTV News backstage on the shoot. “And then we’re trying to capture the energy of youth. There’s a line in the song that goes, ’The youth is the engine of the world,’ so we’re trying to show that in the video too.”
The video is the third Webb has shot this month — after Yellowcard’s “Lights and Sounds” (see “Yellowcard Get Back To Rock Roots, Lure Moths In New Video” ) and Weezer’s “Perfect Situation” (see “Elisha Cuthbert Takes Over Weezer — But Rivers Won’t Have Any Of It” ) — and it follows Matisyahu’s impassioned performance at CBGB to the streets of Brooklyn. It also caps off a pretty amazing year for the 25-year-old rapper/toaster, who became a rather unlikely sensation at this year’s South by Southwest music conference in Austin, Texas (see “Straight Outta West Chester? Meet Hasidic Hip-Hopper Matisyahu” ), followed that up with a live album, Live At Stubb’s, toured the country, recorded a few tunes with Christian rap-rockers P.O.D., and even got to perform with one of his idols, former Phish frontman Trey Anastasio (see “Bonnaroo Kicks Out The Jams Thanks To Dave Matthews, John Mayer — And Bo Bice” ).
“We were at Bonnaroo and it was the Sabbath, so I was away for the 24-hour period from Friday night to Saturday night, and then Saturday night I found out there was a chance I could perform with [Anastasio], so naturally I said yeah,” Matisyahu explained. “And as I was heading back, I realized that this was a great opportunity for me, because when I was 17, I left high school and followed Phish around the country, and at that age, there were a lot of negative things happening to me, so I saw this as great way to rectify all of those things.”
And while he tends to apply that same sort of super-serious focus to many things in his life, Matisyahu is nothing but totally amped about the prospects of this new, still-untitled album, which is due in stores in late January.
“Since I became religious, I don’t get over-excited by many things, but music is one of them. And I’m really excited about the album. Whenever I find it in the CD player and put it on, I still really like it. And I’ve been listening to it for a few months. So that’s good,” he laughed. “We recorded this summer, and the songs were written by me and my band, so the musicality of it comes from a wide array of influences. It’s got dub reggae and hard rock and laid-back folk songs and some straight-up hip hop. It’s full of songs that lots of people can relate to. I can’t wait for people to hear it.”