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The Groundwork Theory

  • reviewed by Andree Farias Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2007 1 Sep
The Groundwork Theory
Sounds like … a combination of classic, pop, and band-based hip-hop in the vein of Common, GRITS, N.E.R.D., and tobyMac.At a glance … Four years in the making, The Groundwork Theory is Verbs' most unified, consistent album to date.Track Listing I Yie!
Better Not Fall for That!
Be Still
Stay Fresh
New Day
I Know
Light My Life Up
Let's Give
Be Still (Reprise)

I was beginning to think Verbs dropped off the face of the earth. Nobody seemed to know much about the emcee's whereabouts other than he had left Gotee Records, taken several trips to South Africa, shifted his focus to world missions, and found himself a wife-to-be.

One way or another, these experiences served as the foundation for The Groundwork Theory, Verbs' long-awaited fourth project and first released independently through 1280 Music. Fortunately for Verbs, Christian hip-hop didn't change much during his four-year leave of absence. If anything, the game has missed him dearly, since there haven't been a great many rappers stepping up to make his same sort of soulful, pop-infused, didactic hip-hop.

Now that he's returned, all we can say is "Welcome back!" Time away from recording and the public consciousness has given Verbs' music a freshness that is almost atypical in today's label-based hip-hop realm. Being an indie, he now tackles his albums from a completely do-it-yourself mindset, which only accentuates his ability to try things that are out-of-the-box in Christian hip-hop. For example, he uses a frenetic live drum kit to deliver, appropriately, a song called "Stay Fresh," an appeal to draw outside the lines and to take chances with one's artistry.

Gone is Verbs' silly, conceptual approach to making albums, focusing instead on delivering a collection of tracks that work better as individual compositions than as a thematic whole. He calls it "global village hip-hop music," a reference to his missionary heart and his desire for cosmopolitan, relevant rap music. In his trademark conversational style, the rapper tackles life's priorities ("Be Still"), God-ordained romance ("Future"), and the centrality of the gospel ("Glow").

For an album without the support of a big production budget, The Groundwork Theory is so remarkably handled that one is prone to forget how long it took Verbs to make it. It's one of the most pleasant hip-hop surprises of 2007.

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