"A Streak of Flava Runs Through Them"
Lately in Gospel music, the blurring of musical styles and the integration of
novel influences has become increasingly common.
With the popularity of Latin sounds, the broadening influence of hip-hop beyond its
underground roots, and the intrigue of musical exploration that
many artists are drawn towards, things are not always what they seem.
So hereís our take on a few recent Christian recordings
that are united in their diversity, and bound together
by the streak of flava that runs through them.
Nicole C. Mullen
Nicole C. Mullen
Nicole C. Mullen seems to be able to do what the Gospel
music industry and CCM market struggle with. Her
debut solo project neither ignores, nor relies on
racial issues. In her song selection, she talks both
about the racial heritage she inherited and the one
she has chosen for her future. "Black, White, Tan"
shares her view and God's view about that. The
projects strengths are in its genuineness and honesty,
and of course, its musical prowess.
Mullen, who you may be familiar with as the voice of
Larry on Veggietales, or as the writer of Jaci
Velasquez's smash single "On My Knees", possesses a
wonderfully expressive voice and writing ability.
Highlights include the folky, guitar-driven "Fly"and
similarly-structured "Shooby". She reclaims "On My
Knees" as her own, and in other places, uses balladry to
display her lovely voice. While some might pigeon-hole
Mullen to the CCM side of the spectrum, the quality
and realness is much broader reaching than that if
you let it be.
Newcomers to the scene, Salvador is a young band with
a latin vibe pulsing through their musical expression.
Thatís not surprising, considering that the six come from a strong hispanic
heritage, most calling Texas their home. The album is supported by some of
CCMís most respected producers (Monroe Jones, Dan Posthuma), so itís perhaps
not too surprising to hear an overall sound that is
more Ďpop with a latin twistí than Ďlatiní.
Maybe thatís the overall aim of this introductory
effort (to appeal to both the pop and the latin
Still, the promise that Salvador show here
makes you shake your head at would they would sound like with a
lot more salsa and little less of the standard
rock/pop approach. Perhaps the answer to that can
be found on their fascinating interpretation of Fred
Hammond and RFCís 1996 hit, "When The Spirit of the Lord"
(retitled as "Davidís Dance" on this disc), with its
hefty dose of conga rhythms and steamy brass. (Salvador's website.)
The pop sounds of Plus One would normally would fall outside the bounds
of our coverage here at GospelFlava.com, but even the briefest
rundown of the players involved on this very splashy boy band debut means
that we have to take a second look. Names such as
Buster and Shavoni and Rodney Jerkins will certainly
cause Gospel hands to check this one out. Other
notables stepping in include Robbie Nevil (Brandy, Monica) and
Bradley Spalter (Babyface). It also marks the debut project from
super-producer David Foster's new Christian label, 143 (the
album is jointly released with Atlantic).
This album delivers what it promises, for the most part:
finely-harmonized pop with a groove, and some nice
melodies. But donít be confused. The involvement of
some of urban Gospelís biggest names doesnít mean that
youíll find a heap of jeep tracks. Rather, in a
reflection of their respective talents, it's a showcase
of how good producers aren't confined to one sound only.
it's doubtful that Gospel radio will find much to fit in their format,
the The Promise still offers some fascinating insights. (Plus One's website.)
Are We There Yet?
The latest in a recent stream of pop-influenced Gospel hip-hop projects comes from
Gotee Records, and is the work of a 21-year-old Ohio native of Jewish descent.
Defying expectations from heads of
all sorts, Are We There Yet is an inventful collection of
that no doubt has hip-hop as its root. Yet, it's layered with a collage
alternative and rock influences that unmistakeably seep
through several tracks.
not an earnest attempt at building bridges, yet it probably will. And with the
honesty and self-deprecating style that he exhibits, you never get a
'wannabe' vibe. Proof at just how fresh this project is comes by way of the artist's name,
for here's an MC that takes the bold step of using his own. John Reuben.
reviewed by Melanie Clark, Stan North ó
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