When the conversation turns to musical influences, not many groups are likely to mention Michael Buble, Beethoven, Stevie Wonder and flamenco music in the same breath. But it's diversity that inspires them, not to mention their unique faith backgrounds that makes new Fervent artist Group 1 Crew stand out in a crowd.
And if their hybrid of hip-hop, rock, funk, soul and even Spanish-language rhymes wasn't enough to distinguish Group 1 Crew on its highly anticipated debut, their impassioned message of hope and encouragement can't help but set them apart—especially in a genre of music that typically glamorizes violence, the degradation of women and the acquisition of all the luxuries money can buy.
But even more important than serving up a collection of cool songs for the masses, Group 1 Crew's Manwell Reyes, Pablo Villatoro and Blanca Reyes (no relation to Manwell) has one, unified purpose. Unlike many popular groups where members individually vie for the spotlight, Group 1 Crew wanted its name to have a singular message that communicates the band's desire to shine the love of Christ through the power of song.
Founded in a rather unlikely way, the group got its start when Manwell, a former solo artist and veteran emcee started a Bible study with his friends and fellow musicians Pablo and Blanca. A few years later, Manwell met Jeff Adams who would quickly become the band's manager. Jeff set up a showcase for Fervent label execs in Nashville and the group signed a record deal not long after.
With the natural camaraderie that comes with friendship and long hours of making music together, the group shares a passion for making a unique contribution to both the Christian and mainstream hip-hop scenes. In addition, one of the group's main priorities is reaching its peers with its message in a relevant, non-Christianese way.
Manwell understands the importance of speaking a language his peers can understand because he didn't always connect with the words that fellow Christians often use to communicate their faith, either. "Before I became a Christian in high school, I didn't know anything about God at all," Manwell confesses. "I was a horrible kid. I was kicked out of three schools, did the whole crime thing—robbing, stealing, trading merchandise and all that jazz."