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Ordinary Dreamers

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2008 1 Sep
Ordinary Dreamers
Sounds like … a more caffeinated version of Black Eyed Peas, that is, pop-laced hip-hop featuring two strong rappers and a commanding lead vocalAt a glance … Group 1 Crew expands their sonic palette even further with Ordinary Dreamers, an album that establishes them as power players in Christian urban popTrack Listing Movin' Our Time Gimme That Funk Tonight Keys to the Kingdom Closer Bring the Party to Life iContact I See You Critical Emergency I Had a Dream Live Out Loud Change Living the Life

With just one album, Group 1 Crew filled a big void in Christian music, and it didn't take long for people to embrace that impressive self-titled debut. The trio scored radio recognition, a Dove award in the hip-hop album category, and a rapport with pop lovers who wanted something similar to tobyMac, but with more emphasis on the hip-hop than the rock.

Without missing a beat, Group 1 Crew is back bigger and bolder than before. Ordinary Dreamersexpounds on everything that made the eponymous disc a big hit: mad rap skills from emcees Manwell and Pablo, sensible pop vocals from Blanca, and top-notch production from Chris Stevens (tobyMac, Ayiesha Woods), among others.

Those looking to get their hip-hop fix, however, should look elsewhere: Ordinary Dreamers is a pop effort first, an urbanized hip-hop album second. Furthermore, at one point Manwell raps, "The word on the street is we're the Fugees with a swing/The compliment is nice but we're rapping Trinity." That's what G1C wants to get across first: that their focus is their faith, not a particular sound or style.

Not that the sound isn't important. In fact, the quality of the tracks is so high, many of them are right on par with the best of today's urban pop, from the Kanye-meets-Daft Punk of "Living the Life," the crunk-ish "Movin'," the dizzying, multi-part "Gimme That Funk," and the summer-ready "Tonight." These party-starters are tempered by experimentation, like the robotic "iContact," the jazzy "I See You," the underground "I Had a Dream," and the club-friendly "Live Out Loud."

Some curveballs are even stranger, like the soaring pop/rocker "Closer." But then again, Blanca says she always wanted to be Mariah Carey growing up, so the song fits her stylistic inclinations like a glove, even if her emcee buddies are somewhat relegated to the background. If there's one slight thumbs-down against the trio, it's the occasional knack for saccharine melodies, patently noticeable in the Gwen Stefani-like "Change" and the Blanca-led "Our Time," both of which are too cloying to stand a chance in modern pop playlists.

Other than that, Ordinary Dreamers establishes Group 1 Crew as the most exciting act in Christian urban pop right now. They're the perfect example of three artists bringing their collective strengths to the table, remaining true to who they are, and maintaining a deft balance between faith, accessibility, and urban savvy.

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