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Holy Culture - Click to view!1997 saw the premiere of a talented, passionate hip-hop crew The Cross Movement. Six years later, following many different line-up changes, the crew has a new record deal and a group membership of four (Ambassador, Tonic, Phanatik and Tru-Life). It has been three years since a CM project has been released, but as their latest record, Holy Culture, displays, the crew did not remain stagnant. Instead, they bring a dual message, speaking to the church and the streets with one of the most mature stances in the industry. People aren't ready for this.

The group's previous album, Human Emergency, called believers to recognize the dangers of God's coming judgement and get working to save souls. Holy Culture takes that message to a new level. The title track, performed by The Phanatik, encourages Christians to stand for God's righteousness: "Pray / Stay / Build / Chill / Walk the / Talk the / Spark the Holy Culture / Give / Live / Speak with / Meekness / Week out and week in / Spark the Holy Culture." The banging "In Not Of" has The Tonic reminding the church that God is the creator of hip-hop, allowing believers to be involved in the culture without indulging in its sin. "Lord, the world thinks that you left the streets / And that you ain't the kind of God that would bless the beats ... He left us in the world and said 'mix it up' / With a righteous kinda flow that picks it up / Before Satan can 666 it up / He gonna bust through the sky and fix it up." Also found are several snippets of discussions the group has regarding Christians in hip-hop. Not wanting to abandon the culture, they call other emcees to bring the message of the cross according to their calling.

Each track has a stunning capability to challenge the church while simultaneously speaking messages accessible to those outside of it. The Ambassador blesses a crafty Rodney Jerkins track ("Free") to gently paint a picture of lost souls in need of Christ's transformation. The crew touches on the afterlife with "Forever" and "Cry No More," conveying thoughts of heaven in a delicate balance - drawing people towards its hope but not sugarcoating the message. The Tonic warns, "I hear the whispers of the fat lady / And the only reason she ain't singing right now is / God got His hand on the volume baby / Real patient ain't he / But don't take His kindness for weakness..."

However, these great messages would have little effect without decent production. Rodney Jerkins delivers excellent work with "Free," the smooth joint "Closer To You," and the outstanding posse cut "When I Flow." DJ Official gets a lot of work on this record and contributes quality material. His best track is the club friendly "Eternal Cypha" that features many East Coast artists including R-Swift, Truth, J-Silas and Todd Bangz. Bangz also delivers an exciting party track for The Phanatik on "Start Something." The hot beats only further demonstrate the maturity of the group that seeks to put out a project that will have kids nodding their heads.

The only complaint might be that the group has too much to say, with several songs clocking in at over five minutes. The album is packed with knowledge that will take several listens to unravel. Holy Culture is for the head: the knowledge will keep your brain active, the tracks will make your neck work, and if you don't pick up this project, I'll be shaking my head.
- Jon Corbin
August 2003
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