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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews


  • reviewed by Andy Argyrakis Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Nov
Sounds like … the tongue-twisting title says it all, as T-Bone takes on a bold new course, giving nods to the funky tendencies of Parliament and George Clinton, while also pleasing fans of Jay Z, KRS One, and Nelly At a Glance … T-Bone lives up to his title as the king of Christian rap/hip-hop, delivering his second Flicker project following his line of independent Hoodlum releases.

Having a long-lasting career in any facet of the music world is quite a challenge, but T-Bone's managed to prosper for the last ten years as one of Christian music's reigning kings of rap and hip-hop. Bridging West Coast flavors with rhyming relevance, T-Bone started impacting the scene in 1991 with a string of pioneering solo projects, Redeemed Hoodlum, Tha Life of a Hoodlum, Tha Hoodlum's Testimony, and the hits collection, Tha History of a Hoodlum. Besides the trend of having the word "hoodlum" in those various independent titles, T-Bone's had a history of making an impact both in and out of traditional Christian circles.

His resume boasts appearances on MTV's "The Cut" and on the Latin American Music Awards, as well as a Grammy nomination for his first Flicker release, The Last Street Preacha, in 2001. Such time in the mainstream spotlight most recently has led T-Bone to a prominent appearance in the Paramount Pictures/MTV film The Fighting Temptations. Scheduled for release in 2003, the film features T-Bone as a character in the film – along with Cuba Gooding, Jr. and Beyoncé Knowles (Destiny's Child) – and as a musical presence on the Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis-produced soundtrack. Between time on the set for the film and in the studio recording for the soundtrack and his latest Flicker release, Gospelalphamegafunkyboogiediscomusic, T-Bone has a packed schedule – but the end results are packed with promise.

Much of his recent musical success stems from the many elements T-Bone incorporates into the new record that he hasn't done in the past. For instance, besides his series of highly detailed raps, T-Bone takes a stab at soulful singing on many of the tracks, several of which boast a funky new vibe to enhance his hip-hop base. Part of the disc's immediate appeal is T-Bone's ability to combine modern dance samples and DJ scratches with retro elements of funk, disco, and break-dance beats into a congruous melting pot. The memorable "Pop Ya Colla" is probably the best example of such harmony as T-Bone raps to a series of smooth soul beats behind a loungy funk backdrop, complete with a little turntable action. He builds up those beats to a Parliament-styled party on "Welcome 2 California," as the rhymes roll off his tongue to a pointed synthesizer groove. In terms of the rhythmic and lyrical bounce on "Dippin,'" George Clinton would have a field day turning it into an improvisational jam/freestyle rap session; and although T-Bone's version doesn't have the funk master himself, special guest Mista Grinn will have no problem keeping the dance floor crowded.

Other notable guests include E-Dog, who offers a slick snarl on "Can't See Us," and mainstream superstar KRS One (comparable to Jay Z or Nelly), who vocally amplifies the title cut's twisting turntable action. One of my particular favorites is "Tha History," which although it doesn't feature any special guests, pays tribute to the many classic Christian rap/hip-hop acts who have inspired T-Bone throughout his career. After giving a surprisingly descriptive overview of the genre's historical roots, he gives credit where credit is due to a long list of artists, including S.F.C., Michael Peace and the JC Crew, P.I.D., Mike E, System 3, and even dc Talk. Like those innovators who aren't afraid to push the lyrical envelope, T-Bone continues to use street-styled slang in between spiritually slanted statements.

Throughout the album's 50 minutes worth of material, I was constantly amazed at how all of his lyrical structures are so incredibly detailed, all possessing intertwining storylines. However, amongst those storylines, T-Bone uses a handful of terms that some may find offensive on their own, including words such as "pimpin'" and "bangin'" and characters such as the "wino in a liquor store." When dissected out of context, perhaps some would find such examples alarming, but T-Bone cleverly includes such descriptions in hopes of appealing to the audience who needs his message most. For instance, lines such as, "Now I'm intoxicated wit the Holy Spirit y'all / No more chronic, bionic, gin and tonic / Chocolate tye, or sticky icky, icky / Cuz tha Holy Goly gets me high" (from "Once Upon a Time"), and "I'm not a Jehovah witness, but I witness for Jehovah, back in the day, the 1st to slang cane and the baking soda, but nowadays, I like preachin' the word, like a drug dealers, slangin; holy rock on the curb" (from "Blazin' Mics") both point to a higher purpose despite the unwholesome imagery.

It's sentiments such as these, and T-Bone's ability to move past some of his derivative material from the past, that provide a variety-filled project that's also his best to date. Like fellow Christian rappers KJ-52, L.A. Symphony, and John Reuben, T-Bone's messages are versatile enough for both the church and the streets. Regardless of where you are on that continuum, Gospelalphamegafunkyboogiediscomusic only verifies that Christian artists can have a significant presence in the rap and hip-hop scene, with T-Bone's finely honed craft leading the path.