Disclaimer: All views presented in this Album Review are those of the album reviewer and not of DJ Wade-O.
The Affect it had on a Genre and it’s Relevance Today
What makes an album a classic? Is it the combination of creative lyrics over dope beats? Is it a record in which you enjoy every song? Is it an album that affects and changes a culture?
I don’t think there is one right answer to this question. It could be a number of things that classifies an album as a classic. And every “classic” album has a different characteristic that makes it a “classic”.
In April of 2003 I was finishing my sophomore year in high school. I was still into secular music real heavy and Christian hip-hop was the furthest thing from my mind. The hip-hop world was still buzzing from 50 Cent’s historic February release “Get Rich or Die Trying”. CHH hadn’t garnered much popularity or respect from the mainstream yet, but that was about to change. A talented Philadelphia based group called Cross Movement was about to release their 4th album entitled “Holy Culture”.
Holy Culture’s affect on CHH
CHH has had a long reputation of being one step behind its secular counterparts. But most would say that that’s not the case anymore. With Lecrae getting respect from the mainstream and performing in the BET awards cypher, music videos by Trip Lee appearing on 106 & Park and several CHH artists spending time near the top of the iTunes hip-hop chart, the days of CHH being one step behind are over.
“Holy Culture” peaked at #10 on the Billboard charts for Christian albums, but its affect on CHH was much bigger than that. I would even venture to say that without “Holy Culture” none of the things I mentioned before would have happened. “Holy Culture” is the reason CHH is the way it is now. Most of CHH’s biggest artists can (either directly or indirectly) be traced back to Cross Movement and “Holy Culture”.
Cross Movement wasn’t just talking about God, how to properly follow Him, or bring people to Him. It was about being proud of your faith and courageously standing up for that.
On “Holy Culture” Cross Movement was calling Christian rappers to be just that, Christian Rappers. They encouraged us to forsake omitting Jesus or watering down our faith for the sake of relevance and record sales. The constant theme was that rapping isn’t the purpose for the Christian rapper, but rather a tool used by the Christian rapper. The ultimate goal then should be to share God’s love in excellence.
Holy Culture’s affect on me
I came across “Holy Culture” in 2006. It was a few weeks after I was saved and I thought walking away from hip-hop completely was the best way to keep me from returning to secular music. That wasn’t working. I wanted to listen to hip-hop again, but I wanted it to match my newfound faith. So, I went to the Family Christian store and walked out with “Holy Culture”, “The Thesis” by The Ambassador and a hope that Christian hip-hop was different than I heard it was.
“Holy Culture” opened my mind up to CHH. It showed me that Christian’s could make good music that praised God at the same time. It completely exceeded my expectations musically. My eyes were opened to a genre of music and a talent pool of artists that I never knew existed.
While the music was good, the thing I walked away from “Holy Culture” with was pride. I was proud to be a Christian. Being new to a faith that was completely juxtaposed to the lifestyle all my friends were living became very difficult. Every time I listened to “Holy Culture”, it was like a boost of courage and pride to continue in this walk.
I needed to know other people were living the same way as me, and this record became that confirmation. I will never forget “Holy Culture” for that. It will always have a place in my IPod, but more importantly it will always have a place in my heart.
Holy Culture’s affect on present-day CHH
Most “older” records lose their relevance over time, but this one is different. It has seemingly become more relevant with time. With this whole Christian rapper not a Christian rapper debate going on, “Holy Culture” has a place in today’s game.
The Movement consistently articulates the idea that their whole purpose on the mic is to glorify God and share His love. There’s no wavering from that point at anytime in this record. Even the title of the album is addressing it, by saying that the culture needs to be holy. That statement alone is divisive in nature because to have a holy culture means to be set apart.
“Holy Culture” was a stake in the ground. It was Cross Movement standing up and saying that we will unwaveringly use our music to glorify God. You hear this on the song “When I Flow…(It’s Gospel)”:
“Though we not highly paid to perform
That don’t stop us from steppin’ on stages galore
You can take away the stage and the studio booths
Pull the label execs and the loot the recoup
That don’t change what we slang
Cause we not the usual group
We only jump for the Lord
So we don’t jump through the hoops”
With songs like these “Holy Culture” became an anthem for Christian rappers.
It’s easy to get lost in the music and forget the bigger picture. I’ve done it myself, but that’s why “Holy Culture” is still relevant today. It makes things easy. It’s not about the music. It’s so much more than that. It really is ministry. If we forget that then all we’re doing is making music and listening to it. Holy Culture is a reminder of purpose and what’s really important. This is exactly what the game needs today.
“Holy Culture” isn’t Cross Movements best record musically, but it’s a classic because it completely changed a genre and birthed a growth within the genre that is rarely seen. It’s what the group will be remembered for. Every CHH fan, no matter when they started listening, needs to have this record. It’s a timeless message and it’s what we as Christians are about, a “Holy Culture that’d in the world, but not of it.”