Return of the Gangstaz
As we stand at the threshold of a new millenium, Gospel music is receiving unprecedented exposure in areas previously unimagined. For the last four years, the spotlight has been thrown on Kirk Franklin and his Nu Nation. However, 1999 is slated to shine that spotlight in a new direction.
Eyes are now focused on the Gospel rap arena, and in particular, The Gospel Gangstaz. June is when these rap innovators are scheduled to release what is being heralded as the most celebrated Gospel rap project in history. The project, titled I Can See Clearly Now, is the latest effort coming from B-Rite Music. However, it has been a long and grueling road for the Gangstaz.
"The Gospel Gangstaz have been in the game since 1989," says GG'z member Mr. Solo. No strangers to the industry, Mr. Solo, Tik Tokk, and Chille‘ Baby embarked on a mission to reach lost souls using the avenue of rap. In the process, they first signed with Holy Terra Records. That union yielded two projects which sold nearly 100,000 units between them. Yet, nothing was as it seems. The Gangstaz had a four-year layoff between their final Holy Terra project (Do or Die) and their B-Rite debut. Why?
"The deal with Holy Terra was a nightmare," states Mr. Solo. "There were a lot of unkept promises and untruths. It was a principle thing. It's one thing to be crossed by the world. However, it's another thing to be crossed by Christians", he continues. Apparently, things between the Gangstaz and Holy Terra deteriorated to such a point that the GG'z were going to leave the industry. "We are gangstas and we are not going to be pimped," Tik Tokk says bluntly.
However, the GG'z joined the B-Rite Music family last year, and regained a love for the industry. "B-Rite restored our love for labels," says Chille' Baby. "We have harmony with B-Rite. They care about the total person. [B-Rite] makes sure that we have our vitamins. They even schedule counseling with pastors for us." "They are like family to us," says Mr. Solo.
Finding a comfortable record label home, the Gangstaz have embarked on a journey that is may possibly make them the most celebrated Gospel rap artists in the history of the genre. The former gang members are fully aware of the road that they face. "This attention is no surprise to us. It has been prophesied that God would make us a household name," says Mr. Solo. "It's just like David. He started out tending the sheep then God elevated him to be king. God is in the process of elevating us to a new level," declares Tik Tokk.
Though this new-found exposure is welcomed by the GG'z, they are also aware of the barriers that they face. "For some reason, the church stereotypes rap," states Mr. Solo. "They consider rap to be a bad thing just by seeing the way that we look. There are a lot of filthy singers out there but they aren't judged by the way that they look," continues Solo. Undaunted by the issue of appearance, the Gangstaz see tremendous potential for their success. "God is breaking barriers and we're going to set a new trend. It's pretty amazing because there are even traditional [Gospel] stations that are starting to play our music," says Chille Baby. "We're bringing Gospel to a whole new level."
"This has been a long time coming," continues Tik Tokk. "Hip-hop is here to stay and there are a lot of folks who are ready for it. We are moving from glory to glory."
While the Gangstaz view B-Rite Music as a family, they have also forged their own family, known as The Committee". This aggregation came together as an extension of the mission of the Gangstaz. "They are a group of talented, anointed people. The Committee is not a local thing. We've got members all over the place," says Mr. Solo. Among the members is label-mate and female Gospel rap star Alisha Tyler, half of the husband-wife rap duo A1 S.W.I.F.T.
Speaking of Tyler, she makes a guest appearance on the GG'z new project. In addition, the project features appearances from The Nu Nation and is co-produced by rap superproducers Trackmasters and Steve Stoute. "All of that was a blessing from God. It's all part of being in the Interscope family and being in the right place at the right time," states Tik Tokk.
The Gangstaz understand the responsibility that accompanies this high-profile attention. Yet they are certain of God's favor and presence with them in all that they do, and remain confident of God's promise to them. "God is about to really show out," says Chille' Baby. "We've worked too hard to let someone set us back 10 years." "We're gonna raise the standard for holy hip-hop and we're gonna make it bangin'," states Tik Tokk.
The future looks bright for the Gangstaz. They are feverishly in the studio working on solo projects from Committee members Alisha Tyler and Mr. Solo, as well as a project from the entire Committee. They are also in preparation for a Committee tour. Yet amid all of the excitement of the present and the future, the GG'z still remember their purpose. Mr. Solo defines it: "We want to bless the world and we want souls to get saved."
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