66. Gang Affiliated – Gospel Gangstas
GANG AFFILIATED (1995)
This was the best Christian rap album of all time…
…and it’s not even close!
Rather than sporting the normal Top 100 review process I have decided to primarily speak to the album, the market and the groups impact on both. Since themes were consistent throughout the release, the most important thing about the album is its authenticity, and how that reality impacted CCM as a whole. Even rock bands were influenced to be more “legit” as a result of this rap release.
In 25 years of working in Christian retail, wholesale, radio and concert promotion no other release has carried with it as much controversy and appreciation as the Gospel Gangstas’ “Gang Affiliated.” Even those that would not include rap as a personal favorite style appreciate just what the Ganstas created with this amazing project. And no other album has been banned, ridiculed and attacked as much as Gang Affiliated. Even the furor raised over Stryper’s “To Hell With the Devil” did not match the controversy surrounding this project.
Whether it was the guns on the album cover, the gang clothing, the scary images, the seemingly anti-authority and anti-police lyrical content or the prevalent use of the “n” word, nearly everyone found something to be offended by.
I was working for Frontline Records at the time and we originally had sold in a compilation record that DJ Dove was putting together to promote up and coming rap artist in the Christian market. But right before release date the sales force was told that title was being changed and that it would not be a record featuring just one, brand new rap artist called the Gospel Gangstas (later changed to Gospel Gangstaz for subsequent releases). At first we were concerned that the product shipped was not the product that was sold in, but once we saw the immediate sell through of the title and intense response from fans, all was forgiven.
But soon after the release the complaints began pouring into the Frontline offices. Bookstores started pulling it and keeping behind the counter; some because they claim the theft of the product was high and others because of the cover and the content. Oddly enough, despite the intense outcry of problems none of those same stores ever returned the product because it was selling!
What made this record so amazing?
It was legit! Authentic, real, believable…legit!
There were no subjects off limits to the Gangstas on this project; police brutality, welfare, gang warfare, sexual promiscuity, murder, rape and drug dealing were all staples of this releases subject matter.
Fornication on my mind 7, 24, And some mo’
The devil used girls for bait to hook the Solo
I would invite em on a late dinner date
But it was lust on my mind not the food on the plate, But wait
I was like a hound, Sniffin around, Nose to the ground
Diggin in any girl I found, The devil had me bound
Ditchin school to feed my hungry flesh
I had an A in fornication, But a F on my test, Oh yes
Being in bondage is a horrible state
I can’t escape, Havin sex so much that I’m losin weight
Throughout the project each member of the Gangstas gives their testimony and how they gave up the sins of the past (drugs, sex, violence, etc) and had embraced the Gospel. Full length cuts are interspersed with sermonettes, samples and even several “interview” segments where the Gangstas explain some of the more controversial lyrics. To add to the controversy one member of the group was serving time just when the album was being released.
The Gangstas, and this album, were nothing without the Gospel part. They never once shied away from proclaiming the Gospel and never once did the Gospel message take a beck seat to the issues of drugs, gangs, sex and violence.
In an attempt to assuage fears about the groups lyrical content several “interviews” were placed throughout the project giving the group a chance to explain and defend the content. These were interspersed between songs and were cleverly used to transition from one song to another as well. This was both a necessary evil and an artistic triumph of brilliance that would be duplicated by others.
But ultimately this title deserves to be on this list because of the barriers that were broken as the result of its release. Sure, there were plenty of Christian rappers doing their thing with limited results. PID, D Boy, etc all had been out in the market long before the Gangstas, but no, up to that time, had created such an authentic and polarizing project.
Despite the controversy (and possibly because of it) it continued to be a top selling album for a very long time, lasting much longer on store shelves than releases by their peers. If anyone was remotely interested in Christian rap this was in their collection. Though rap music has progressed and changed and improved, not many releases equal the intensity, believability and out right authenticity of this project and all the success that today’s rappers enjoy is due, in large part, to this one release.