South Floridian veterans of the holy hip-hop scene, but debuting on Seventh Street Records (home of Cross Movement, Ambassador and others), 1Way embraces the next millennium with an abundance of intriguing sounds, solidified with bluntly stated scripture and integrated with clever rhymes and phat beats.
The crew is a busy foursome: Proverb, 2Edge and Versal create lyrics, while Morphiziz DJs and combines with Proverb on production. Collectively through their hip-hop, and individually through their various leadership involvements, they reach out to youth with the Gospel.
In a case of album art reflecting aural content, visual motifs of futuristic exploration, far-out journeys and spacescapes evident throughout the liner notes are quite appropriate to the feel of the album. It’s a vibe which, while branded with creative future-sounds, remains tethered to East coast hip-hop roots.
“I Don’t Care” is a blunt charge affirming 1Way’s absolute priority in praising God, come what may. In a creative vein, flowing rhymes are laid over samples of ‘tortured howling’. It’s unique, it works, and it serves to emphasize that nothing (even torture) will prevent them from giving up God his due praise:
“We gonna praise Him with our hands,
pushing in the air
You don’t like it?
so what, I don’t care”
—I Don't Care
Another bold cut is the nautical-themed “Waves”, with viola, violin and bells on the instrumental track, Morphiziz spinning crazy scratches, along with some medieval-sounding female vocals on the chorus, rather reminiscent of the soundtrack from the original Star Trek TV series. It’s Jesus who steps in and brings us through the waves.
The string-flava’d sounds spill over into “Plasmatic Path”, which carries the straight-up Gospel message. The crew tackles the issue of Gospel hip-hop criticism (which comes from the realms of both church and world) on the syncopated “Don’t Doubt the Skillz”, pointing out that the crucial issue is ministry and anointed lyrics. These cats have no need to justify on their beats and flows, as these speak for themselves. Hot.
And don’t skip over the “I Am” interlude which is anything but. It’s a worshipful, echo-filled meditation on the names of God with a relevant wind sound effect loop.
1Way define their album title, Souljourn, as “the spiritual, moral, emotional, essence of man traveling from one place to another”. It’s a clever reference to both “soul journey” (the journey of the soul in Christ) and to “sojourn” (to reside somewhere temporarily, i.e. in Jesus Christ, we ‘sojourn’ in this world, as we are, in fact, citizens of heaven).
The album too, is a journey, and one worth taking, as 1Way paints a refreshing hip-hop landscape brilliant in hopeful, scriptural and street-lingo-laced imagery, and pulsating with a fantastic phat factor.
album release date: November, 1999
Seventh Street Records
— reviewed by Stan North