RELEASE DATE: SEPTEMBER 11, 2012
Group 1 Crew have always been the go-to guys for a fix of funky hip-hop with ‘a little bit of swagger’. Need some auto-tune? Fancy some dubstep? They were your band. Their crazy blend of dub-step, pop-rap and dance, once a foreign concept to the Christian music world, is now found on iPods everywhere. Although now one man down, the duo hope to keep the sound alive.
Fearless is Group 1 Crew’s 4th full length studio release and comes after a period of trials and testing for the band. Since their last album, they have celebrated highs whilst weathering the lows that come with death in the family, tiring touring schedules, family life adjustments and the loss of Pablo as a band member. Fearless is an anthology of lessons learnt and victories won.
The single “He Said” (featuring Chris August) gives it all away. This is Group 1 Crew like you’ve never heard them before. It is a fine CCM song with a worthy message – learning to rely on what God has said- but the big crazy dance sound is nowhere to be found. It’s more like a Chris August song with a Group 1 Crew feature. This more conventional approach to song-writing can also be heard in “His Kind of Love” , a ballad about the enduring nature of God’s love, and “Steppin Out” which focuses on trusting God in the unknown. Whilst all are fine compositions, they’re most definitely not trademark Group 1 Crew.
For those who prefer Black Eyed Peas to Michael W. Smith, “The Difference” and “Dangerous” will be much more to their liking. Both display the duo’s ability to compose outstanding modern popular music with a clear message. It’s about the grooves, the feisty beats, the fresh energetic vibes that made Group 1 Crew the urban sensations that they are. “Freq Dat” will get anyone on the dance floor; it’s the kind of progressive music that got the group where they are.
Whilst I’ve got nothing against the more traditional inspirational music, I believe Group 1 Crew’s forte lies elsewhere. Their strength is creating funky hip-hop music for an industry crying out for something imaginative. “Night of My Life” may not the serious subject matter of “His Kind of Love” but its the distinctive sound is unforgettable. It can be done: “Darkest Valley” is a perfect example of the best of worlds, a first class tune with a rock solid message to go with it.
Fearless is an album of two halves. You get some serious yet safe CCM hits and then you get some original numbers that don’t always deliver so much in the message department. That’s not to say that the CCM choices aren’t good – they’re just mostly unoriginal. Forsaken, with its classic Group 1 Crew sound and message about trusting God in everything, is easily one of the best tracks of the project.
Group 1 Crew can ‘bring it’. Ever since they stormed onto the scene five years ago, they’ve gone from strength to strength. Each time they’ve released an album, it has been nominated for Dove’s ‘Rap/Hip-Hop Album of the Year’ – and won. They brought a completely new and genuinely exciting mix of urban- electro dance music to an unassuming Christian music market. So the ‘been-there, heard-that’ feel to Fearless is disappointing.