THE SOUND OPTION WITH MARCUS HATHCOCK
#11 - True Heroes
Gym Class Heroes is catchy, but innovative rap-rock doesn't have to be inappropriate. We suggest you check out Rhema Soul.
 


Musical genres are bending, twisting and breaking this day in age, and in the process, hip-hop has broken out of its sampling and synthesized beats and has embraced rock guitars and distortion.

This started really with the Run-D.M.C./Aerosmith collaboration for “Walk this Way,” and the work of the Beastie Boys, but the amalgamation really took form with pioneers N.E.R.D. The band--fronted by the prolific Pharrell Williams--blazed the trail 10 years ago with their style-busting debut album, In Search Of..., though the band departed from that style thereafter.

Today, the best-known rock-rap group is Geneva, N.Y.’s Gym Class Heroes. Together since 1997, the band--fronted by longtime friends MC Travie McCoy and drummer Matt McGinley--made waves with their 2006 song “Cupid’s Chokehold” from the Gold-selling As Cruel As Schoolchildren, but it was last year’s single “Stereo Hearts” that catapulted the band to pop stardom.

The song--a team-up with Maroon 5’s Adam Levine--rose to the top of the U.S. pop charts, and went triple platinum nationally. That single has boosted sales and attention to the band’s latest effort, The Papercut Chronicles II, and fueled interest in a second single, “A** Back Home” featuring provocative British popster Neon Hitch.

While “Stereo Hearts” is mostly benign, lyrically, it’s a gateway drug; most of Gym Class Heroes’ songs are packed with expletives and sexual references. From the profanity-laced tirade against a former lover to the drug and alcohol escapism to tales of sexual conquests, The Papercut Chronicles II has plenty of “R-rated” material.

And then there’s the strange moment of spiritual honesty. A song titled “Holy Horsesh**, Batman” asks some rather probing questions about Heaven and Hell. But in a commentary on the song, Travie McCoy says the song is “...me basically questioning Christian ideology, I guess. I’ve always questioned it. That’s not to say I’m not a spiritual person.”

There’s a rap-rock group out there that doesn’t dabble in the worldly fare of the Gym Class Heroes. Rhema Soul takes the best of rap and rock and blares the Christian message with uncompromising clarity and quality.

With their latest release, RED, Rhema Soul has established itself as a pioneer in the rap-rock genre in its own right, fusing styles while staying true to their beliefs.

The first single from RED, the high-powered, distortion-heavy “No Walking Away,” touts the importance of commitment. Rather than laud sexual adventures, the track “So Beautiful” speaks to a woman’s worth.

“I have a heavy desire to tell young girls how significant they are in God’s eyes and help them build their self-esteem,” explains Butta, Rhema Soul’s female rapper. “Young women need to learn how to guard their hearts and to allow God to show them what love truly is.”

In the “Stereo Hearts”-like song “On My Way,” Rhema Soul talks about not letting bad times affect one’s calling in life.

“No matter how bad things get, stay committed,” Rhema Soul wrote on its blog. “Whether it be a marriage, family, goals, dreams... trust God and choose to stay and fight through it.”

That sounds a lot more hero-ic to me.

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 www.mheternal.com.

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