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John Reuben
[ are we there yet? ]

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Are We There Yet? - Click to view! ARE WE THERE YET? (2000)
"I don't set out to be different. It's just what I feel. I listen to a guitar, or hear some real emotional indie-rock or something, and I think it would be cool to lay a thick beat under that dark guitar," explains Christian hip-hop newcomer John Reuben about his writing style. Reuben's first release, Are We There Yet? combines classic hip hop with pop, funky beats, turn tables, and some good old fashioned rock.

The 21 year-old native of Columbus, Ohio is a part of the ever-growing family of Gotee Records, a Nashville label started a few years ago by Toby McKeehan of dc talk. Not only is McKeehan the executive producer of Reuben's freshman release, but he also joins Reuben on the album's final track, "God is Love." The album introduces a mature form of hip-hop into the CCM world. Rather than simply laying rhymes over a repetitive beat, Reuben creates street-level artistry that could only fit into the category of REAL. Are We There Yet? shows all the sides of Reuben while giving the lucky listener a raw insight into the daily struggle and pure joy of living an intimate Christian life. Half the songs move to beats that the most pious would tap their feet to, while others combine the tear-jerking strum of a guitar with emotion-driven vocals that pass sweetly into the ears.

The album begins with some fun hip-hop, "Divine Inspiration," then moves on to the album's first jammin' single, "Do Not." Lacing his ideas with the adorable sound of a young girl sweetly singing along ("Do not/ tell me what I can and cannot do when I rock"), Reuben shares his frustrations in the anthem to "create for the creator and not to impress you." And unpredictable is John's middle name. Right when the listener has put aside pride to get out of their seat, bounce around, and throw their fists up and down to the funky beats, songs like "No Regrets" begin, causing one to sit back down and sympathize with this truthful young man (in more mental, less visible ways). "No Regrets" portrays a real message to his fans with lyrics like "To my future in the palm of God's hand/ to my past as of now that I can't understand/ to my future uncertain unclear/ to the past I left to bring me here," explaining how he wants to live following the Savior without regrets even though it may be tough.

Are We There Yet? goes on with the song "Jezebel": "I was confused and chose stupidity over patiently waiting/ dag how could I not see/ that tryin' to fill a God-size void with a female would only leave me empty/ but I did it anyway like a stupid human I fell." "Jezebel" shows Reuben's ability to get rid of pretense and be truthful in order to point the hopeless and shameful to God, our only source of hope in a tainted world. Although the CD is categorized as hip-hop, Reuben's love of all music seeps out into all of the tracks. Many of the songs are true to the sounds of popular CCM rappers/alt artists, as the song "X-Ray" dangerously approaches a P.O.D.-esque sound, "Draw Near" borrows the guitar drive of Audio Adrenaline, "Him Her He She," compliments the ears of their current punk/ska tourmates Five Iron Frenzy and Relient K, while "God is Love" is a peanut butter meets jelly mix of old school dc Talk and FFH.

Nothing better could be added to what John Reuben says of his firstborn: "It's an album that everybody can relate to, from hip-hoppers to punk rockers, skaters, to people who sit around in coffee shops. If people are willing to open up their mind and enjoy an album, they'll be ready for an album like this."
- Crystal Hutcheson
November 2001
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