|Half the Crew, All the Boom | Posted November 08, 2013
It has been seven years since The Flood, and somewhere along the way the crew has been cut from four to two, but Chille Baby and Mr. Solo are representing Jesus as Defenders Of The Faith on their newest album. Gospel Gangstaz trace their roots back to 1994, and along the way they have collected Dove and Grammy nominations, but most importantly they have been instrumental in spreading the Gospel, and with it life, in the neighborhoods where they once were active gang members of the notorious Crips.
The first time I heard the Gospel Gangstaz was 1999. It was total West Coast style but it provided light whereas their contemporaries in the mainstream were spreading darkness. Pressing play on this album took me right back. The style is the same. They haven't sold out to sound like anyone else.
The album opens with "Roll On," a true representation of what Gospel Gangstaz is all about. The bass hits hard and the hook is catchy. One of the best line's on the album is in this first track: "'til He revealed the mystery like Alfred Hitchcock / and now we revealin it to you through hip hop." This speaks to where they came from and how they continue to roll on for Christ.
"Defenders Of The Faith" starts off with a video game type sound and then the bass slams hard. This album bangs for days. Although this is the title track, it may be one of the weakest on the album. With the background "woos" and the alien sounding vocals in the chorus, it detracts from the solid sound in the rest of the album. "Braids In" redeems the off sounding DOTF with a solid hook and a return to that West Coast sound that is so familiar. It's a come-as-you-are type of song. A song of redemption but redemption that doesn't cost you your identity in some sort of legalistic, religious ceremony. I like the line: "I got my braids in / and my pants hangin low / that's how I praise Him." It's not about your hair or clothes, it's about your heart.
"Walk With Me" was released in August. I don't think I ever got so excited for a comeback album than I did when I saw that tweet. I downloaded the track from soundclound and waited in anticipation for the rest of the album. It is more classic Gospel Gangstaz. Nothing fancy, just straight fire. "2Nite" is a praise song. It is reminiscent of West Coast funk and soul. The bass line slaps and the song grooves. Clear the living room for this one, the whole party will start doing the electric slide.
One thing Gospel Gangstaz never forget is where they came from. "Low Ridin" pays homage to the low rider lifestyle that is so familiar in L.A. There's a NWA sample in the track and they even have a sample from their 1999 album I Can See Clearly Now. The record cuts are nice and the Gospel message is still clear and strong.
The album ends on a high note with "Don't Dance." There may not be a more familiar line from the hip hop culture than Sugar Hill Gang's "up jump the boogie to the rhythm of the boogie the beat." Well, in "Don't Dance" we learn that gangstaz don't dance they boogie to the boogie the beat. The song grooves with the same funk and soul of the classic rap trio, and even features Bootsy Collins from Parliament-Funkadelic.
The uninitiated Christian hip-hop fans may not enjoy this album quite as much as I did. There was a nostalgia to the album that was reminiscent of my early walk with Christ. Gospel Gangstaz along with Cross Movement were the first Christian hip-hop albums that I owned that gave me an alternative to what I had filled my mind with. It wasn't cheesy, it wasn't poorly produced. It was the Gospel wrapped in solid West Coast rap. Even though it is just Chille and Solo now, they haven't lost focus on what got them their fan base. It is half the crew but it still maintains all the boom.
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