But while the music was evolving, life in Brooklyn was getting harder. Matisyahu had rebelled at becoming the poster boy for orthodox Jewish cool and an uneasy stand-off had developed between the artist and a community that both embraced and feared his unpredictability.
"I went through a lot," he says. "At a certain point, things just aren't working, they're not meshing together. There was moment where I definitely just felt, 'I think I can do whatever I want with my life. People will understand or they won't understand.'"
Once he'd made the decision in mid-December to shave off his beard, Matisyahu faced the next question: How should he handle it?
"The thought crossed my mind, 'Well, how am I going to do it? Am I just going to show up on stage? People are going to wonder who this is," he says.
"I really didn't plan to say anything to anyone. I don't even know if I called my wife or told anybody. I just walked into a Supercuts on the Upper West Side after a couple of days of agonizing over the decision. Then I realized that I had to do it. I realized I was making it into too big of a deal."
Why a Supercuts? Matisyahu explains: "I didn't own a razor."
Within a few minutes, a decade's worth of beard was gone. The next day, Matisyahu was scrolling through his Twitter feed when a fan, unaware of the change, quoted one of his lyrics, "At the break of day I look for you at sunrise/When the tide comes in I lose my disguise."
"When I wrote that lyric, I don't know if I knew exactly what it meant. But in that moment, that's what it meant," he says. "I realized that was prophetic to my life, to a certain extent."
Matisyahu stood in front of a mirror, snapped a photo of his new look with his smartphone, and sent it via Twitter, basically telling the world. He hopes his followers will understand.
"I think when you're a fan of music — at least the way I've been a fan to artists that have really touched me — you're with them for the long haul. They might do things that you don't understand or agree with, but I think I've always tried to hold my judgment and give them the space to do what they need to do," he says.
Mark Kennedy is on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
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