THE SOUND OPTION WITH MARCUS HATHCOCK
#8 - Boom Boom What?
"I gotta feeling" that when you hear Group 1 Crew, you'll say you "just can't get enough" and you'll ditch Black Eyed Peas for a sound that "don't lie."
 


When you hear the phrase, “I gotta feeling...” do you instantly think “that tonight’s gonna be a good night”? If you do, you’re not alone. Hip-hop/pop/dance group The Black Eyed Peas have all but owned that phrase for the last several years as one of their many party anthems.

The Black Eyed Peas have been a group since 1998, but they didn’t captivate pop culture’s consciousness wholesale until the release of their third album, Elephunk, in 2003. That album delivered the group's breakout song--the thoughtful and catchy "Where is the Love?"--as well as a new direction with the introduction of former "Kids, Incorporated" child star, Stacey "Fergie" Ferguson.

Since that breakout album, the band has produced hit album after hit album, chart-topping song after chart-topping song.

Black Eyed Peas' songs have served as the soundtracks for iPod commercials ("Hey Mama"), the 2004 NBA Playoffs ("Let's Get it Started"), Super Bowl XLV halftime show, and an undocumented majority of dance parties around the world.

According to the Toronto Sun, the group has sold more than 31.5 million albums and 31 million singles worldwide. Songs like "Let's Get it Started", "Don't Phunk with My Heart", "I Gotta Feeling", "Imma Be", "My Humps", "Just Can't Get Enough", "Rock that Body", "Meet Me Halfway", and "Boom Boom Pow" all have had significant sales and airplay success, and the majority have been Top 10 hits in the U.S. The band has produced five certified Gold singles, three Double Platinum singles, a Quintuple (5x) Platinum single "Boom Boom Pow" and a Septuple (7x) Platinum single, "I Gotta Feeling."

So what's the lyrical recipe for this musical gumbo? As Plugged In’s Adam R. Holz pointed out, “Rolling Stone magazine describes the Black Eyed Peas as a group hailing from a musical tradition that glories in lyrics that are ‘aggressively, festively, infectiously dumb.’ If only dumb lyrics were this [band’s] sole problem.”

Instructions to dance are mostly met with forays into drinking and casual sex. Profanity of all kinds runs rampant throughout Black Eyed Peas’ albums, but with increasing occurrence.

Packaged with the party rocking are some very disturbing occult references. Many times band members are photographed flashing occult hand signs. Other times, the album artwork provides the symbology. But for the most part, the Peas reveal some darker themes in their symbol-rich music videos. From Masonic insignias to Babylonian ritualistic tools to Kabbalah instruments to transhumanism to Egyptian pyramid power, there’s plenty about which to be concerned. (Just search “Black Eyed Peas occult” on Google to see some fascinating analysis.)

There are also lyrics snuck in like those in “Just Can’t Get Enough,” which dangerously resound: “Love you, love you, ya know you are my demon.”

So with obvious moral questions in the music, and some potentially very dark themes hovering around it, what’s a music-lover to do when they want to find some futuristic hip-hop pop? Enter Group 1 Crew.

This Orlando-based brother-sister duo of Manwell and Blanca Reyes has been providing futuristic sounds of their own since 2006. With three albums under their belt--the self-titled Group 1 Crew, Ordinary Dreamers and Outta Space Love--this group has continued to push the awesome envelope when it comes to this admittedly neglected segment of Christian music.

Group 1 Crew gives Black Eyed Peas a run for its money across the board, with club-friendly, head-bouncing, bass-thumping tracks that mix rapid-fire raps with thick female vocals.

Speaking of those vocals, even a casual listen of Group 1 Crew reveals that the vocal chops of Blanca Reyes easily outperform the much-touted Fergie’s. Manwell’s raps certainly don’t have the variety and the hard-edge sound of MC triad will.i.am, Taboo and apl.de.ap--but they’re certainly pop-friendly, smooth and aggressive.

If you’re taking the Group 1 Crew introductory class, check out their latest album, Outta Space Love, particularly the danceable “Manipulation”, “Breakdown” (which even has a few “Boom Boom Pow” moments), “Transcend” and “Outta Space Love.”

But make no mistake, the foundation of this beat mansion is totally different from the secular chart-toppers. 

“We have a lot of songs that have great beats,” Blanca says of the new music, “but then when you break them down and listen to the words, they have amazing messages about friendship, messages about love and also just being in a broken place and needing God.”

If the Black Eyed Peas had a song called “Live it Up,” you can bet the lyrical content would include casual sex, alcohol and carefree living. Outta Space Love expresses why Group 1 Crew wants to “live it up”: “Everything about my life is so blessed, and, so evident.”

But even beyond that, Group 1 Crew offers some slower jams like “Beautiful”, “Lean On Me” and “Please Don’t Let Me Go” that present positive themes of love, acceptance, loyalty and dependence on God.

Group 1 Crew, despite all their growth and achievements, remain one of Christian music’s most underrated bands. Strike that, they remain one of the most underrated bands in music, period. Positive messages, clubtastic parity and superior vocals abound; why wouldn’t you check out Group 1 Crew?

And while the Peas are on an indefinite hiatus following 2010's The Beginning, Group 1 Crew just re-released Outta Space Love with a smattering of all-new bonus tracks. 

As Group 1 Crew says, “We ain’t goin’ nowhere. There’s no plan B.” Get acquainted with the Crew, and buckle up for relevant music for years to come.

MORE SOUND OPTIONS...

NRT Senior Editor Marcus Hathcock has been a newspaper reporter, an editor and now Communications Director for East Hill Church in Gresham, OR. He's also been involved in opera, acappella, a CCM group and now is a songwriter and one of the worship leaders at East Hill. Follow his journey at .

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