Matisyahu’s name has been in the press amid both praise and backlash this summer, with the latter sticking more than the former as he releases a new song, “Love Born,” in honor of all the haters. One week, he is inviting a fan from Hawaii to perform with him on stage and the next he is forced to address heat from a negative Facebook exchange with a separate fan.
On August 9th, 2016, through Fallen Sparks Records, Matisyahu released his new single “Love Born,” which marks the first solo release since 2014’s Akeda. Matisyahu plans to return to the studio this fall to record a new album. “Love Born,” however, finds itself clouded between praise and backlash over both positive and negative interactions Matisyahu had going into the first week of August.
The praise started with his trip to Hawaii on July 29th & 30th for The MayJah RayJah Music Festival when Matisyahu found himself inside a Maui coffee shop where Clint “Kekoa” Alama sang the reggae star’s hit single, “One Day,” not realizing he was performing with the singer himself. Following this interaction, Matisyahu invited Kekoa to join him in performing the song at the Hollywood Palladium on August 12th, 2016 — The video for both of these performances can be found below.
Kekoa admitted he was unable to travel due to a probation violation, however, Maui County Prosecuting Attorney, John Kim, happened to see the clip and worked with local officials to offer Kekoa a temporary release, with Kim saying in an Associated Press interview: “The court has allowed him this one opportunity of a lifetime.” Upon his return to Hawaii, Kekoa was back in jail as his public defender, Danielle Sears, says he was late returning to Hawaii because he missed his flight and then caught another one after Friday’s concert at the Hollywood Palladium.
“I was once a kid in a similar situation as him,” Matisyahu explained. “Playing music on the street with a dream to share my music with the world. This dream came true and now I have the ability to pay it back.”
Watch: Matisyahu joins coffee shop performer on “One Day.”
Watch: Matisyahu – “One Day” (feat. Kekoa Live at the Hollywood Palladium – Aug. 12, 2016)
The honeymoon for that praise was short lived as following his performance on Sunday August 7th, 2016 in The Woodlands, Texas, an apparent longtime fan of Matisyahu, who goes by the name Katie Loo Pennington, posted a Facebook status tagging Matisyahu with her short review of the show, stating: “I’ve seen Matisyahu 4 times… This was his worst performance, and to top it off he just said ‘peace out Dallas, peace out!’ and exited the stage. Seriously?…” When Katie posted this, there was at least one comment from a friend on her network that reaffirmed Katie’s love for Matisyahu’s music, stating: “Man I know how much you love him. You listened to him religiously when we hung out.”
As it turns out, Matisyahu personally reads posts on Facebook that he is tagged in and decided to reply to her status in a series of public comments that started out defensive, before going on the offensive. Matisyahu would comment that he does not perform to entertain, and seemingly throws shade at Dirty Heads with his comment to Pennington: “If you enjoyed Dirty Heads set it makes sense that you wouldn’t have any clue as to what it is I’m doing up there. Creating in the moment real art not entertaining or regurgitating. Dumb people don’t usually get it. It seems the Cornier your music is the more people like it. That’s cause most people are dumb unfortunately.”
He follows up with another comment: “And I don’t have a problem with dumb people but if you’re to stupid to get it the very least you could do is keep your negativity to yourself and not try and make yourself feel better about your lack of understanding by pointing the finger at me.”
Unfortunately, the comments didn’t stop there. Katie Loo replied to Matisyahu: “Don’t blame me if you can’t take an honest review. I’ve been a huge fan for forever. What ever is going I hope you find peace soon! I’ve lost total respect for someone I looked up to, who’s music helped me through alot of stuff in my life. I wasn’t disappointed in the art I was disappointed in how sloppy you were and the asshole you’ve become.”
If you think the exchange stopped there, again, the unfortunate took place with another comment of vented frustration from Matisyahu as he continued: “And one more thing. Do you know what it’s like to sleep on a bus and wake up every day in a parking lot where every amphitheatre looks the same? Where you don’t go out and see the city and play show after show. 200 shows a year for 12 years. Flying here and there, etc. The answer is, you don’t have the first fucking clue what my life is like. Not even a little. but you feel justified enough to make judgements and have an opinion cause I mixed up the name of your city. Arrghhh! So frustrating people like you exist.”
Where it all ends badly for Matisyahu is that he takes the frustration away from the topic and allows it to steer itself in a comment that is hard to forgive by concluding his exchange with: “I would just like to say that your child is ugly as fuck and your name is stupid. Good evening Katie Loo Fuckington. Take your ‘honest’ review and Suck it.”
The Explanation & Apology:
On August 8th, following a regretful exchange with Katie Loo Pennington, Matisyahu made a post on his own page explaining how frustrating tour life can be, especially when the reviews are negative. With a quick line, you’ll find an indirect apology in a post on his Facebook page that you can read in full:
“Where to start? Such a mixture of opinions flying around and at me right now. Let me just say that I don’t have someone running my social media. Every night after my show I go back to my room on the bus and read messages and comments at the end of the night. I’m three months sober and work very hard at it being on a reggae tour and all that. I touch reality and try not run from it. The reason I read messages is because almost every night there is someone who is sick or hurting and finds comfort in my music and usually I interact with them through words or even invite them backstage to meet and talk. It also means that I come across a lot of hate, critique, and opinionated people who find it useful to let me know how shitty they think my music is, or why have I ‘changed my look’ or how could I do this or that. Some musicians out there might have tougher skin but it breaks my heart every night and gets into my head. In my weaker moments I fire back with a response or try to explain myself or defend myself and it usually ends in ugliness. In the words of the Talmud, ‘if you roll around with someone who is muddy you’re going to get muddy’ or something like that. I understand my music isn’t for everyone but I put my heart and soul into every performance. If you don’t like it, fine but why do you need to comment? If I don’t like what someone does I might tell a friend or even talk about it but I’m not gonna go up to the person creating the art and tell them I think it sucks. What good comes from that? And at the end of the day my opinion is just that. An Opinion. There is no definition of good or bad when it comes to music or art. I know I could go out there every night and play the hits and just do what I think people want but when opening up and playing a 30 min set I have to choose. I choose to explore and find a meaningful unique experience in the music and hope that people will connect with it rather then fake it through playing songs that I don’t enjoy playing. To the lady I insulted last night I’m sorry. I got angry and defensive and yes your comments hurt and yes I read all your comments because at the end of the day I feel it’s more important to connect with the people who actually have some purpose or need to be listened to. From now on I will try my best not to respond to negative comments. Fire away! I will keep making the music that I feel is important and if you don’t like it and feel the need to tell me then I accept it all with a broken heart and it will feed the emotion in my music. Have a lovely day. Houston we have landed.”
I think most of us have had regrettable online public-spats that we wish we could remove from existence and probably thankful that no one can retrieve to screen-shot and scrutinize. In this case, Matisyahu crossed one of the ultimate lines with being a high profiled artist attacking a fan by calling her child ugly as fuck over a disagreement of his live performance — She didn’t insult his family, religion or beliefs, she just expressed her honest displeasure with his live performance. More so, he had the mature option to message her privately to connect with her about the show as his apology insists he does by running his own social media. Matisyahu makes some valid points in his vented frustration of having to deal with criticism from fans when he pours his heart into the art and it’s not well received, especially after performing 200+ dates a year for more than a decade — Who wouldn’t be frustrated by that? And staying sober isn’t easy once you’ve had the taste. I value the fact that he doesn’t have anyone running his social media in an effort to extend a personal touch and I’m sure there are a ton of positive online exchanges to which he should probably receive positive press and credit for. But he crossed a line by verbally attacking Katie, her name and child.
It was out of this world fantastic that he would invite Clint “Kekoa” Alama from a coffee shop in Hawaii, all the way to Hollywood to perform on stage in front of thousands. Matis’ showed the world what he’s capable of to those that value his music by simply being present for an unbeknownst cover of his song in a coffee shop. Considering how wrong Matisyahu was in his approach and handling with Katie Loo, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have the opportunity to express humility and remorse — not for disagreeing with Katie Loo’s opinion, but for crossing an unnecessary line as a result. The apology was indirect as it doesn’t even mention her by name.
With a new single titled “Love Born” being touted as a tribute to all of the haters, the timely release of the song feels pointed and the apology, insincere. I just hope I can update this write-up with how he was able to connect and make amends with Katie Loo — Hearing that would better welcome the new single, “Love Born.”