My first listen to Cross Movement's latest release, HIStory: Our Place in His Story, was pretty uneventful. I snooped the music while in the car driving to and from the office one day. Nothing stood out to me at that point.
But my second listen caught on by surprise, like an unexpected stocking snag or an unforeseen hook-grab of the belt loop on my jeans. "Whoa, what was that?" was my constant response song after song. I was sold then; and after running the CD through about a half dozen times, I'm awed. Honestly, "HIStory" comes at you like the constant jabs of a boxer on a roll. It holds hit after hit after hit. And as a HHH lover who has nearly every CM work since Heaven's Mentality, it's delightful to see how far this group has come.
What a brilliant concept: ending what could be Cross Movement's career as a group with an album about God's providential inclusion of these individuals in His plan for His creation. This project is a look back, a glance forward, and a perusal of the current condition of a human race that desperately needs a Savior.
"We lost Truth in this period/and proof is so mysterious/losing absolutes is so serious/how we think we gon' live when everything's relative/is anybody curious?//without a standard of Truth society's deranged/that's why I'm up in your ear begging for change."
I'm happy to say each track, song, arrangement, and lyrical concept is different. But one thing these tunes have in common is that they're all true to the theme of this album. They each look at the important issues of our day and the artists' timeless solution expressed as they've always done for the last decade. The lyrics spit by the Tonic, shown above, are an excellent example. In "Spare Change," he dives into the danger of relativism (the notion that truth is relative and not absolute) in a way anyone on the street can understand. Asking, "Can anybody spare some change?" the Tonic delivers profound lyrics that expose the folly of continuing in a Godless way of thinking that will inevitably hit a brick wall. He does the same in what may be my favorite joint on this project, a song entitled "9-10." This appropriately reflective stroke of genius, rhymed in a style that one knows is Tonic even before peeping the tracklist, displays the artist's observation that in a grossly fickle manner Americans responded to the events of 9-11 by seeking God's relief only to return to the way they had lived on 9-10 a short time later. Back we returned to our wicked ways, having only sought God for the comfort He could offer. The Tonic noticed that very quickly "We celebrate sin/and if feels like 9-10."
Another CM rapper who shines bright on this album is T.R.U.-L.I.F.E. Oh, I must admit I'd been waiting patiently for this brother to bring it like I remember him bringing it on earlier CM albums. And I'm oh, so satisfied with L.I.F.E. on this one! He does a great job on "Louder," "The Last Cypha" and "Back For This." His flow is on-point, and his contributions to this album are hot without a doubt. Let's get back to "Back For This" just for a moment. This track has an old-school flavor with glorious horns and a smooth hook. In classic T.R.U.-L.I.F.E. fashion, he tells a good story with a moral at the end. This is an important song and a grand addition.
Truth be told, all four CM artists come correct on "HIStory." It's easy to appreciate the flow, content, and lyrical ability of each. These selections display some of the best of their talent. Ambassador's flow is flawless over the head-nodding instrumentation of "Our God." He spits fire over a seeming '70's-like musical undercurrent in a song called "Trust in Him," which has a creative arrangement where the hook appears every four bars throughout the track. And Phanatik litters this album with his trademark nifty multisyllabic rhyme schemes. One especially extended one comes in "Now Who's the Man?" and "Tapestry" shows off his skills nicely as well.
"God made me blessed dark and ebony/opposite of brevity/who in this game gon' tell me about longevity?//if I had my way I'm going 'till I'm 70/return of King Jesus/the only thing that'll settle me."
"HIStory" makes great use of many other talented artists, including Tedashii (who rips it on the crunk southern track, "Name Up"), Iz-Real, and Mac the Doulos. Finally, "The Last Cypha" officially passes the baton from Cross Movement as a group to the talented cats poured into by CM, including Trip Lee, R-Swift, FLAME and Da' T.R.U.T.H. The cypha is remarkable but also a bit of a downer for those who believe this is it for the Cross Movement as a rap quartet. Nevertheless, as I read the Tonic's lyrics above and take a look at projects expected to be released by individual members of this band in time to come, I'm excited about what's next.
Release Date: June 5 2007
Record Label: Cross Movement Records
1. Our God
3. Trust In Him featuring Robert “Don” Barham
4. Spare Change
6. I Love You
8. Back For This
9. Clap Your Hands
10. Name Up featuring Tedashii
11. Get That
12. Now Who’s the Man? featuring Iz-Real
13. Clarity featuring Mac the Doulos
14. Whatchu Say?
15. We Were They
16. Big Things
17. The Last Cypha featuring Trip Lee, R-Swift, Mac the Doulos, Iz-Real, FLAME & Da’ T.R.U.T.H.