Music News & Reviews

Christian hip-hop group wants to take its message to the streets

Blanca Reyes and Pablo Villatoro of Group 1 Crew performed at last year's Questapalooza. The hip-hop band is returning for this year's event.
Blanca Reyes and Pablo Villatoro of Group 1 Crew performed at last year's Questapalooza. The hip-hop band is returning for this year's event.

Group 1 Crew wants to make music you can take to a party.

"We wanted to give Christian kids a record they can be proud of," says Manwell Reyes, one-third of the Christian hip-hop trio that is playing Questapalooza for the second straight year. "They know it's God. Everything we write is God. But at the same time, we want them to have the full confidence that they can play it in front of their friends and know that it's legit. They don't have to worry about anyone saying, 'That sounds dated,' or 'That sounds whack.'"

As purveyors of urban music, Group 1 is something of a rarity in Christian pop music, a genre still mostly composed of adult contemporary music and rock acts.

Reyes says he thinks urban music gets a bad rap in the Christian market from gatekeepers such as church leaders and record company executives who can't separate the style from negative images of sex and violence associated with mainstream hip-hop.

"Go to any church kid and look at their iPod, and I guarantee that some urban pop or hip-hop is going to be there," says Reyes, whose bandmates are Blanca Reyes (no relation) and Pablo Villatoro. "Secular urban music is what's prominent today. ... The church is the only place that doesn't acknowledge that it is."

Reyes says it is a problem if the Christian market is not producing music that the kids want to hear.

Group 1 Crew has done fairly well in the Christian market. The act's last album, Ordinary Dreamers, was named rap/hip-hop album of the year at the 2008 Dove Awards, Christian music's top honors.

With the band's new album, Outta Space Love, due Sept. 21, Reyes says the group is taking aim at the mainstream market.

"We've always felt called to the mainstream," says Reyes, who promises that Sunday's Questapalooza audience will hear quite a bit of the new album. "We feel like our music is for more than just the church. We feel like we should outreach to a mainstream world where other music really isn't the best for kids to hear.

"Let's not be content with just packing churches. Let's go save some souls and grab some kids out of hell."

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