Group 1 Crew
There was a time when hip hop and Christian music seemed to be mutually exclusive, but in a few short years, Group 1 Crew has broadened the parameters of faith-based music with songs that percolate with energy and resonate with the truth of God’s grace. On their third Fervent Records release, Outta Space Love, the talented trio explode in a new direction that further pushes the envelope sonically and lyrically.
“We have a lot of songs that have great beats,” Blanca says of the new music, “but then when you break them down and listen to the words, they have amazing messages about friendship, messages about love and also just being in a broken place and needing God.”
Combining substantive lyrics with irresistible urban grooves has become Group 1 Crew’s calling card. Since fusing their creative talents, Blanca, Manwell and Pablo have earned three Dove Awards and scored such top five hits such as “Movin’” and “Keys to the Kingdom,” winning the trio an enthusiastic legion of fans as well as supporters at radio, retail and mainstream TV. Group 1 Crew music has been featured on numerous shows, including FOX’s The Simple Life, Style Network’s Kimora Lee Simmons: Life in the Fab Lane, and The CW’s One Tree Hill. Most recently, “Breakdown,” from their new project has been airing in promotion of the reality series “Khloe & Kourtney Take Miami.”
To introduce Group 1 Crew’s new music, Fervent opted to whet appetites with a summer digital EP featuring five potent new tunes—“Live it Up,” “Manipulation,” “Breakdown,” “Beautiful” and the lead single, “Walking on the Stars.” “It’s very metaphoric. It’s talking about your relationship with God,” says Blanca. “There are moments you feel invincible because he takes all your worries away. He takes all your mistakes away and he makes you feel like you can walk on stars.”
Blanca says the group felt a tremendous sense of freedom in recording this album and that fueled the creative process.
“Outta Space Love was created just completely freestyle,” she says of the title track. “We would think of an idea and go on the mic and record it and someone else would get a cool idea and go on the mic, and the next thing you know we had a whole bunch of pieces to a song and [producer] Chris [Stevens] molded it all together and made it into the song it is.”
In recording the new project, Group 1 Crew worked with longtime producers Chris Stevens and Andy Anderson, and then added David Garcia to the mix as well.
“When we went in to do this one, the main goal was to make a record that was 100% us, and then beyond that we wanted to make music that was applicable to the mainstream and Christian formats,” says Manwell. “We didn’t want to alienate one whole world. We feel like music should just be music. We feel like an album should coexist within the Christian realm and benefit believers, but at the same time exist in the mainstream realm to inspire people who don’t even believe in God or who have never listened to Christian music.”
On Outta Space Love, Group 1 Crew succeeds in making music with broad appeal. Listeners are drawn to the funky grooves and spirited beats, and once the music lures them in, the uplifting lyrics feed their souls. In looking to reach a mainstream audience, Manwell says they followed in Jesus’ steps. “If you study the Bible and how Christ spoke to unbelievers, you’ll realize that it is a story. . .We feel the best way to make a record is to write in parables, to write in ways that people can understand you whether they are saved or unsaved. They don’t have to figure it out. The messages we have are going to point people to God.”
“Need Your Love” and “Control” are innovative worship songs. “When you hear ‘Need Your Love,’ it sounds like a club song,” Manwell says, “but when you listen to the lyrics or read the lyrics, it’s a straight up worship song wrapped in a very mainstream production. Some people might think we’re talking about a girl or a guy, but it’s not. When you actually read the lyrics, it’s pretty blatant.”
With a mutual respect for each other’s gifts, and a shared passion for not only encouraging believers, but also being salt and light to a hurting world, the trio are committed to ministry. “Group 1 Crew just has such a heart for people and we really making an impact in people’s lives,” says Blanca. “I feel this is my calling. This is how God is going to use me to change this world. It’s definitely been crazy to see how God has used us to touch so many people’s lives.”
Pablo agrees. “God is completely in the mix of all of this. The most rewarding thing has been the emails that we’ve received and the testimonies we’ve gotten from teenagers, from parents, from kids, people of all different ages, different colors. To me, that has been one of our big rewards. It just keeps reminding us that God’s hand is completely all over everything we’re doing.”