Hip Hope Hits 2008
- reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2007 1 Aug
- Whatcha Gonna Do With It—Family Force 5
- Open Bar—GRITS (feat. Pigeon John)
- Make Money Money—John Reuben
- All My People—GabeReal (feat DJ Maj)
- Do Yo Thang—KJ-52
- Let It Roll—Group 1 Crew
- Hear My Cry—Soul P.
- Back to Center—DJ Maj (feat. John Katina)
- Rise—L.A. Symphony
- Party (Citizens Come Out)—Diverse Citizens
- Bolla Atcha Hoy (The New Slang)—Just.Live
- Move Something—Willie Will
- When Heaven Scrapes the Pavement—Mars ILL
Already in its fourth annual installment, the Hip Hope Hits franchise continues to chronicle the best of faith-based hip-hop. The job at hand isn't easy. Christian hip-hop doesn't really have radio hits or albums to measure its success by, so the task of selecting hits is rather subjective. On the flip side, the genre has so many stylistic branches and subdivisions that it becomes difficult to objectively summarize it all on one disc.
In good faith, Gotee Records has tried its best to collect the best and come up with Hip Hope Hits 2008, which certainly attempts to provide a wide cross-section of today's Christian hip-hop, but it's not a perfect collection by any means. For example, tobyMac's rap/rock cruncher "Boomin'"—not a bad song by any stretch, but it's a more marginal choice to open a hip-hop compilation with. The same could be said of Family Force 5's electro-pop excursion "Whatcha Gonna Do With It"—it's fun, it's quirky, but two tracks in, the album isn't really celebrating hip-hop as much as heavy rap-rock.
Hits regains its rap footing as it progresses, with strong entries by the likes of GRITS ("Open Bar"), Mars ILL ("When Heaven Scrapes the Pavement"), DJ Maj ("Back to Center"), Soul P ("Hear My Cry"), and Manafest ("Bounce"). Ironically, the best song on the disc comes from a crew that's on an indefinite leave. L.A. Symphony's "Rise" is a haunting autobiographical tale of the hardships the group has faced over the years—a must-listen.
"Rise" exposes the compilation's other weakness: it favors the frivolous and fun over more straight-faced and heartfelt outpourings. Nothing wrong with dance-floor anthems and bangers like "Party," "All My People," and "Do Your Thang," but one might get the impression here that all Christian hip-hop is trivial and shallow. With few exceptions (like Mars ILL and John Reuben) providing depth to the compilation, it's a shame that Hip Hope 2008 doesn't include more of the lyrical substance that's long been the strongest suit of faith-based rap.