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Christian Music - Reviews, News, Interviews

Redemption

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2006 1 Nov
  • COMMENTS
Redemption
Sounds like … the GRITS you know and love—a mixture of Dirty South bravado, crunk celebration, and social conscience, like a midpoint between T.I. and Goodie MobAt a glance … in what seems like a polarizing move, GRITS gets more commercial and underground at the same time in this, their final album for Gotee RecordsTrack Listing We Workin' Holla @ Ya Heyyy Tight Wit These Soul Cry Ambitious You Said We Ride Memories Open Bar Right Back

They're the best-selling rap group in Christian music history with half a million albums sold and counting. But GRITS is moving on with their illustrious history. Redemption, their seventh album proper, is their last one for Gotee Records. They're the cats that first gave the GRITS guys a chance. The duo was then mere dancers for a little group named dc Talk, but Gotee believed anyway, slowly beginning to build their platform. The road to Redemption was slow and narrow; it took GRITS four albums to finally hit their stride, but once they did, they hit it big.

The year was 2002, the year that would change GRITS forever. Before that, they were just the little Tennessee bwoys that could, happy to create cutting-edge hip-hop music for anybody who had ears to hear. The Art of Translation eventually became a smash, selling over 125,000 units and catapulting the tandem to the upper echelons of Christian hip-hop.

As irony would have it, GRITS never liked the "Christian" title to begin with. They never did. They've said it stifles creativity, any opportunities for exposure, and recognition in mainstream circles. They make it abundantly clear in "Ambitions," where a determined Bonafide shares his frustration with using God and Christianity to sell records, rather than paying attention to an artist's lifestyle: "If you really want the truth, I'll tell it / They ain't worried about your soul / They want the artist to sell it / They want their image embellished / They want you spending your relish / They want the bottom of the profit line in pluses and swelling / Ugh, it's ugly, ain't it, how the industry's tainted / And while we never took the title 'gospel rapping' and claimed it."

Those may seem like fighting words and a tough stance, but I wouldn't call it embitterment. It's more like words of emancipation—of liberation—after a period of what they perceived as creative imprisonment. That's the redemption GRITS is referring to, not the term most people associate with spiritual deliverance, although there is some of that here.

"Holla @ Ya" is one of those tracks, a breezy, exhortative number dedicated to a girl in need of guidance about love and relationships; it's perhaps the poppiest song GRITS has ever recorded, but they sound comfortable and at ease. "Memories" follows a similar vein, with the guys extolling the virtues of living in the South—the people, the food, the locales. They almost sound like Nappy Roots, and that's not a bad thing.

But that's where the lightheartedness stops. The rest is all a conflation of crunk anthems, bizarre bangers, and a few instances of old-school hip-hop. "We Workin'" is an example of the former, a deep-fried, bass-heavy party track where GRITS take it to the ATL, military shouts and all. "Tight Wit These" isn't far behind, a sinister, overdone, fist-pumper awash in strident horns and crunk vocals worthy of Lil Jon.

The futuristic "Heyyy" keeps the party going—a song with enough buzzing sonics and an over-equalized backbeat to make your average Escalade owner teary-eyed. The busy, over-synthesized "Open Bar" is the last call of the night, albeit a different type of call: "No matter who you are, tonight is open bar / Get your cups up, get your drink up / It's living water, baby / Get your mind in order, baby…"

It's silly, sure, but GRITS has always had a knack for levity. But part of me wishes all the fun and games weren't so loud and jarring, though. Sure, they're just making sure they're leaving with a bang. But even the biggest bash leaves a moment or two for reflection, retrospection, and maybe even a little gratitude. There's some of that here ("Ambitions"), but those moments are clearly the exception. Whatever the case, and the duo's opinion of the Christian music scene, it'll be interesting to see where GRITS goes next now that they've ended this chapter of their career with Redemption.

© Andree Farias, subject to licensing agreement with Christianity Today International. All rights reserved. Click for reprint information.


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