Gospel Hip Hop Documentary
Shannon Gaston (aka Vessel), of Team Elohim
Gospel hip hop has always been a more than just the audio. To truly experience, you need to be live and catch the visual as well.
The next best thing would be a video capture not concept video, as good as those can be. Wouldn’t it be great to be ‘right there’, with the rest in a rhyming praise fest, front row in a mic runoff, or catching the spins in a bboy circle?
It’s all there on the Next Level, a visual hip hop extragavaganza of two hours in length from underground media visionaries, Team Elohim. Crammed with explosive, extensive and exclusive interview footage with dozens of holy hip-hop’s denizens of rhyme and beats, this is a visual Who’s Who, from coasts both east and west, and from centers in between.
Coming together by a joint vision from God, the three members of Team Elohim (Vessel, Greg Zonca, Korey L. Campbell) use their considerable media and video skills to assemble the most thorough visual analysis and grassroots perspective on Gospel hip-hop to date.
The list of artists included here is vast, ranging from the well known such as The Cross Movement, T-Bone, Sup the Chemist, E-Roc, GRITS and The Gospel Gangstaz to the up and coming such as Corey Red, Hazakim, Livestock, DJ Skillspinz, 1Way and dizzying myriads of others.
Wisely, the team decides against using narratives. Rather than give a commentary, they simply let the cameras roll, letting the artists do the talking. Capturing both for concert footage, behind scenes takes and exclusive artist interviews, you hear the heartfire of the artists themselves.
The video is divided into topical segments, each being introduced with graf titles, and with snappy movements from segment to segment. Superb editing and fresh camera angles from Zonca ensures the flow never falters, and there’s always a phat track at the ready in the background. It’s got technical quality on par with anything you see on network television.
Issues explored include why Gospel hip hop has less of a racial divide than it’s secular counterpart, the distinction between the industry and the ministry and struggles and battles, spiritual and otherwise that are frequently encountered by MCs, DJs and those in associated auxilliary roles.
Highlights are many, and include a roundtable discussion with The Cross Movement’s chief spokesman, The Ambassador, who describes how he first got involved in Gospel hip-hop, and explains the challenges and issues involved in honor their church leadership with their untraditional ministry.
In another segment, two brothers from Columbus, Ohio based Hazakim bluntly explain how they handle it when the Word of God comes against expectations of hip hop culture.
This is incredible stuff, 18 months worth of footage, a scouring the hip-hop-side that needs to be heard and seen. Its beauty lies in its ability to slash away barriers that may exist in the minds of those who are leery of the hip hop expression, particularly as it may exist within the church. Pre-conceived notions planted by the reams of derogatory expression and foul-toned video that pollute the small screens of nearly every mainstream video programmers’ repertoire across the nation are stripped away.
All this is accomplished by the genuine love, the sincerity and the Jesus-filled expression of the numerous artists as captured by the camera. As the hours of film unfold, it becomes so clear that as drenched in hip hop culture as these visionaries are, the soaking in God’s Word overpowers it all. They have found that ‘keeping it real’ is by focusing on the one Reality that is Jesus Christ.
This is must viewing for anyone who loves Gospel hip hop. It's no exaggeration to say that the contents of Next Level will keep serious heads busy and intrigued for days.
And it’s even more important viewing for those with doubts about the legitimacy of Gospel hip hop, for it serves to teach, instruct, inform and enlighten the church community of the absolute legitimacy of hip hop ministry. It's proof that Jesus Christ meets individuals where they are at, for He knows no boundaries of culture.
In addition to the six video clips available in the box above, catch more visuals below, where you catch 'behind the scenes' footage of the video being filmed
— reviewed by Stan North —
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