*** (out of 4 stars)
Label: Fervent Records
Think there’s nothing of value in a hip hop/Christian album? Think again. Meet Group 1 Crew – the trio whose new album pushes the boundaries of faith-based music with club-worthy songs, even while singing of God’s grace. It can’t be that easy to produce an album that appeals to both of those audiences without alienating either one. Group One Crew is Blanca Reyes, Manwell Reyes and Pablo Villatoro. Produced by Andy Anderson, David Garcia and Chris Stevens, Outta Space Love send out some unforgettable hooks (played with superb musicianship) that showcase the trio’s urban sensibilities and their powerful message.
They perform songs that all have great beats, but when you listen to the words, they have positive messages about friendship and love. On the other hand, it is all pretty subtle stuff. The themes of faith don’t hit you over the head in any way. If anything, rather than pick up on them you will more likely find yourself aware of the total lack of explicit and inappropriate messages. The variety of compositions show how musically prolific the trio is — whether the song is electro-pop, jazz-inflected urban stylings, or synthheavy techno funk.
I’ll admit, when I first listened to the album I didn’t exactly know who exactly the audience for this album was, but does that really matter? I’m just here to report that they put out some great music. Blanca, Manwell and Pablo have earned three Dove Awards (including the 2009 award for “Best Rap/Hip Hop” album). After all, if you don’t build it, they certainly won’t come. But Group 1 Crew is making their own music. In doing so, they have actually achieved more than so many other more commercial musical acts on bigger labels. And as Blanca states in “Beautiful,” “Don’t be afraid to be you.”
“Live It Up” – A heavy dance vibe drives this uplifting piece that encourages listeners to “Turn it up, live it up, and shake it up.”
“Beautiful” – this breezy track is given superb production values, and it lets Blanca show us that she is a pop songstress to pay attention to.