Artist: Group 1 Crew
Label: Fervent Records
Release Date: 9/10/12
Reviewer: Jonathan Andre
- His Kind of Love
- The Difference
- He Said (feat. Chris August)
- Goin’ Down
- Mr and Mrs (I Do This For You)
- Darkest Valley (feat. Flame and Thomas Ware)
- Not the End of Me
- Freq Dat
- Night of My Life
- Steppin’ Out
Starting off their career with their hit song ‘Can’t Go On’ off their self-titled debut record in 2007, Group 1 Crew have become a well established hip-hop/rap group within the Christian music industry, writing songs full of honesty and heartfelt transparency as each of the three singers- Pablo Villatoro, Blanca Reyes Callahan and Manwell Reyes; incorporate rap, pop, hip-hop and praise into a musical style that has yielded the hit singles of ‘Love is A Beautiful Thing’, ‘Keys to the Kingdom’, ‘Let’s Go’, ‘Walking on the Stars’ and ‘Movin’’. With Pablo decided in 2011 to leave the band to focus on his marriage and family, Group 1 Crew powered on as a duo, reinventing their sound to create more of a pop/dance genre as Blanca and Manwell welcomed the new musical direction the band was moving towards. Fearless has such a myriad of lyrical genres, and as Blanca reminds listeners about their message behind their new album out on September 10th; ‘…Whether it was marriage, loss, transition in our group or new beginnings, all of them had a part in this new album. God has shown me in this chapter of life that no matter what the journey may look like, He is there and will never leave me or forsake me…’; we are met with a concept of being bold as we look towards our own futures- unafraid of what it may bring because of the certainty that Christ is with us. Filled with ballads and pop anthems, dance melodies and songs to play at a party, Group 1 Crew’s fourth album will continue to provide them with a major fan base (myself included) as they remind us all that ‘…I won’t give you more, more than you can take and I might let you bend, but I won’t let you break…don’t you forget what He said…’ (‘He Said’).
‘He Said’ is the first radio single (originally from their expanded album of Outta Space Love) and the shortest song on the album. Though only standing at 2:48, its message is one of the most powerful on the album, reminding us of God’s faithfulness and promises that reassure us throughout the difficult times in our lives that we experience. The addition of contemporary pop artist Chris August is a great addition as he sings the second verse about how we ought to cling to our identity in Christ; giving listeners a melodic reminder of how we ought to continually focus upon Christ as we are reminded to ‘…don’t fear when you go through the fire, hang on when it’s down to the wire, stand tall and remember what He said…’ As Blanca gives us insight into the song’s relevance for her, ‘…It’s in these trying moments when you’re facing things that you feel are going to break you that you need to remember what He’s promised you and what He’s said…’ we are met with this CCM song that is a big divergence from the rap/hip hop musical genre this group is famous for. This is a welcomed change, and a great reminder that who we are, what Christ calls us to be, and who He is shaping us to become is not dependant on our feelings or emotions. God is going to be with us every step of our lives, and it’s a promise worth holding onto. Through the good and bad times and the emotionally draining and spiritually uplifting circumstances; Christ gives us comfort in the words that ‘…I won’t give you more, more than you can take…don’t you forget what He said…’ Well done guys for one of my favourite songs of the year!
‘His Kind of Love’ is the first song on Fearless and one of my favourite songs from it, with Manwell giving us a glimpse into the everlasting love of the Father, complete with synths and strings. As he starts to declare that ‘…there are no words, no phrase I could create, there is no melody that I could make, how do you sing about a love so deep, without feeling like you’d miss something, I could try but I could not explain…’, we are given a reminder of how great God’s love is, to the point where no words can describe His continual pouring of goodness into our lives. The musicality of this melody infuses strings, guitars and keys to create an anthem worthy a Dove Nomination for Rock/Contemporary Song of the Year, and as Blanca sings out with emotive enthusiasm ‘…His kind of love is reckless for us…will never give up…’, we are given a window into God’s endless pursuit of His children! ‘The Difference’ and ‘Dangerous’ both provide some great mixing of musical instruments, reminding me of a song that would appear at a DJ party. With a theme of stepping out to live dangerously for Christ, ‘Dangerous’ asks the question of ‘…why am I playing it safe when it comes to giving You my life…’; a question to ponder as the chorus moves into the declaratory statement of ‘…I wanna live dangerous, risk it all for You Lord, I need You to wake me up from the lie I’ve known before…’. Coupled with electronic distortions and looping percussion, ‘Dangerous’ is a bold melody of standing up for Christ and moving into the life He longs for us to actively participate in. ‘The Difference’ speaks about how love is the difference amidst the world of sameness, that in a world when it can be unclear what’s real and fake, it is what we long for, even if we are unsure if we deserve the love that God longs to give. Full of remix-like looping percussion undertones, ‘The Difference’ provides us with the encouragement of Love, and how God offers it in abundance. Well done Group 1 Crew for these lyrically poignant melodies!
‘Night of My Life’ can be a little like ‘Live It Up- Part 2’, a superficial song about having fun at night, coupled with DJ music filled with percussion and electronic mixing, however, as Manwell declares that ‘…I’d trade each day of my week away just to have the night of my life…’, I remember about a similar statement David made in the Bible, where He declares that ‘…better is one day in Your courts than a thousand elsewhere…’ (Psalm 84:10). We all know that the night of our lives is being with God, and as we continue to learn more about Him, we ought to be able to make the same proclamation as Manwell, willing to trade everything away to have the night of our lives- being with the Lord and soaking in His presence! ‘Not the End of Me’ reminds listeners of hope after calamity, encouragement after heartbreak, and as Blanca cries out that ‘…every moment I’m starting to believe I’m not broken, I’ll keep hoping, there’s a part of me waiting to love again, the inner voice is not the end of me…’, we are given a reminder that sometimes relationships fail, but as we continue to remember the Lord and His goodness, we too can be stronger when our walls shaped around our hearts seem to crumble, bringing down emotions and replacing them with hurt in the process.
‘Darkest Valley’ is a collaboration with rap artists Flame and Thomas Ware, giving hope that even in the darkest places of our lives, ‘…grace was there to save me…’, a notion that we all need to immerse in our hearts as we soak in the knowledge of God never forsaking us during our times of trouble. The inclusions of these two rap artists is a nice addition, giving it an added dimension as listeners are given hope beyond our personal valleys we all face. But it is the last two tracks, ballad ‘Steppin’ Out’ and electronic anthem ‘Forsaken’, that really build upon the message of stepping beyond what we think we can handle because we are confident of who we are in Christ. ‘Forsaken’ is a gem musically, with a bunch of electronic undertones and a strong drum beat, and as Blanca cries out ‘…so here I stand unbroken, here with an open heart, and in Your hands, I give You all of me, forgiven with a brand new start, let Your spirit reign over me, I’m down on my knees, I’m giving You everything, I know I’ll never be forsaken…’, we are met with this honest statement of trust in Christ even in the midst of our trials, understanding that God never gives up on His children. This theme is further expounded in one of my favourite songs from Group 1 Crew, ‘Steppin’ Out’. This humble ballad reminds us of taking chances and doing our best, and that ‘…I’m steppin’ out to take a chance, and if I fly or if I fall, it’s in Your hands…’ What an ultimate risk to boldly say these claims, but as we know, God is able to do vastly more than we can even imagine. What may seem absurd or even impossible for us, God sees the whole picture, and whatever decision we make or don’t, God will be able to unveil His grand masterpiece as He weaves in all our decisions into the men and women destined for great and mighty things with Christ alongside us. Blanca shines vocally in this track, reminding me at times of Britt Nicole, providing hope that some moments require just one step of courage, with God being there through the whole process. Well done Group 1 Crew for some of my favourite songs off Fearless.
Overall: Group 1 Crew have been able to reinvent their musical genre as they remind listeners of our identity in Christ, and how ‘…as I stand in the eye of the storm, it’s Your love that keeps guiding me home, I’m fearless…’ (‘Fearless’). With God, there is nothing to fear, and these songs are able to give listeners hope as they continue to live their lives solely for Christ. Fans of Tobymac, Britt Nicole and Beckah Shae will definitely be pleased with an album that is musically one of the best of the year! Fearless is sure to be given a Dove Award Nomination for next year’s Dove Awards, as I smile at how Blanca and Manwell have stretched themselves musically and lyrically, providing a conglomeration of musical genres- rap, pop, anthems and ballads! One of the standout albums in September, Fearless is my favourite album from Group 1 Crew! Well done guys for creating such a well-produced and highly poignant album!
RIYL: Beckah Shae, Britt Nicole, TobyMac, Manic Drive
Buy the Album: iTunes/Amazon mp3