But after going to summer camp before his senior year in hopes of meeting a girl, he met God instead. "The first night there, God showed up at the camp. When I say 'showed up,' I mean to this day, I still remember it," Manwell adds. "I could physically see The Lord's feet; the whole room was just on its face. I saw His feet walking through the crowd, and all I could say is 'I'm not worthy' and 'I'm dirty.'"
While Blanca didn't exactly share Manwell's tendency to get in trouble, she also didn't grow up in a Christian family. After her parent's divorce, however, the family was reunited for one of the first times in a while at a church play. After seeing the spiritually themed show, Blanca says that "God hit me, and I knew it was time to get right." And from something she describes as "so simple," she got saved and wanted to give her singing talent back to God. Unlike Manwell and Blanca, Pablo grew up a little differently— as the son of a pastor. But like many teenagers who embrace faith early on, Pablo went through a rebellious phase where he followed the crowd instead of Christ. But when he was 19, Pablo says he "started going to church because I wanted to and not because my parents woke me up to go. My faith was becoming my own, and there was a hunger to know more."
In addition to sharing testimonies of God's redeeming power, the members of Group 1 Crew also take pleasure in keeping people guessing with its unconventional sound and bling-free sense of style. And a word to the wise: Don't assume they're just a Christian counterpart to the widely successful Black Eyed Peas.
"In hip-hop sometimes, people may look the part but lack in the originality department," Manwell says. "I've never liked being compared with other artists, the whole 'they sound like this or that particular artist.' I want people to hear our album, and make their own decision about how we sound."
And if there's one thing for sure about Group 1 Crew, it's not like anything you've heard before Whether it's the pop sound of "Your Song" or the candid account of personal hardship the group addresses in "Forgive Me." Ultimately, Group 1 Crew hopes, too, that even people who don't normally attend church will easily be able to identify the hope in Jesus that has personally changed each band member's life.
"We want our show to be one that everyone can come to and walk away experiencing the love of Christ in a non-threatening way," Manwell says. "Our music isn't for one specific demographic; it's for anyone with a pulse. There's love in our music, and it has meaning for anyone out there. I think once people see that, they'll get what we do."