Cauzin' Efekt: The Chicago-based holy hip-hop crew

Sunday 1st October 1995

Liz Liew spoke to Chicago's holy hip-hop maestros CAUZIN' EFEKT after their mainstage gig at Holland's Flevo festival.

Cauzin' Efekt
Cauzin' Efekt

Cauzin' Efekt are proven disciples for Jesus Christ and have served faithfully here at Jesus People USA for many years," says Glenn Kaiser, one of the pastors at the JPUSA Covenant Church based in Chicago. With America's REX Records distributing their second album 'Famlee Affair', this outfit are rapidly gaining themselves a widespread reputation within CCM as one of the leading gospel hip hop outfits.

Central to the heart of their ministry is a desire to reach out to the street kids of Chicago, using music as a means to communicate the gospel. Working as part of the growing musical outreaches at JPUSA, Cauzin' Efekt started out accidentally in 1988 when Melvin Rich began to rap spontaneously whilst street witnessing. Band spokesman Ron Thompson explains, "(Although) it never meant anything at that point, (Melvin) got a call about six months later asking for our rap group. Well, we had no rap group. . . so our pastors asked if he would write (some) songs and get other people involved." Melvin was led to Ron T, Willie Kemp and later to 'Alpine' Noah Krogh. Each member has had first hand experience of many problems that inner city teenagers face, including drug and alcohol abuse, suicide attempts and even imprisonment. Therefore they are perhaps more able to relate to their struggles in a personal way.

Their current release, 'Famlee Affair', reflects some of these struggles, encompassing premarital sex, drug abuse and abortion. This album also marks a change in musical direction from the melodic R&B of their 1991 debut 'Listen To His Voice' to the more hardcore street style of rap/hip hop. But why use hip hop to communicate spiritual truth? "Many kids out there only listen to rap music, just as there are kids who only listen to rock music," relates Alpine. "So a kid who really likes rap music is probably not gonna go to a rock concert to hear the Word."

But doesn't hip hop, particularly gangsta rap, evoke certain preconceptions? "Definitely," replies Alpine. "The only thing I can say to them is to read the lyrics we're singing about. If you do that then there's no reason why you can judge me. We write from Scripture."

Ron T elaborates, "I think people are a little hesitant because of the negativity that rap has promoted in the secular industry but like Noah was sayin', rap is a form of music that he and I can use and that a lot of young people are into."

What about the contention that black people rap better than white, I asked Alpine. "Well, on the percentage that's probably true!" he laughs. "There are a lot of better black rappers than there are white rappers." But Ron T quickly interjects, "But Alpine be flowin'. He be flowin'!"

Their approach to witnessing is mainly through concerts which are not advertised as exclusively 'Christian' but rather as "anti-drug, anti-gang" events, relating a "positive" message. Although their music itself is not overtly evangelistic, it is after their performances that they (together with their female dancers The Sista'hood) share their faith with members of the audience. Says Ron T, "We hope that through our music and through the love of Jesus we can make a difference and in how we share about the things that are in our hearts."

Ron T and Alpine both agree that it is imperative that they keep up with what is happening in mainstream rap, to avoid the age-old notion of Christian music being dated. Alpine states, "Musically we gotta listen to stay in tune with what's at hand and that's the reason why we listen to mainstream rap."

However, rap music does not provide their only source of influences. On a spiritual level Alpine cites JPUSA members Glenn Kaiser, the Resurrection Band and the Crossing as inspirational mentors.

As well as rapping with the band, they also maintain full time jobs: Ron T at JPUSA's roofing supply business and Alpine as an artist at Cornerstone magazine. Naturally both members find it hard at times to juggle their jobs with the band. "That's the major frustration for us," admits Alpine, "because it's difficult to really put out our best efforts, be it our music or our other jobs. It's hard to be focussed on everything we have to do when we do so many little things... Sometimes it's crazy!"

To make things more hectic they are currently working on a new album, scheduled for release Stateside in the New Year. Explains Alpine, "The only difference between this album and what we've been doing is that I'm doing all the writing. 'Famlee Affair' was kinda split between me and Melvin, but since Melvin's gone I've taken over that. It's a lot more in the direction of my influences as far as hip hop is concerned and more East Coast than West Coast. It's a lot more like House Of Pain and groups like that."

And the future? "We're just trying' to be open to what God has called us to do," replies Ron T, "but our hearts are to reach out to the young street kids." Alpine adds, "I wanna have tunnel vision. The only thing I wanna see at the end of the tunnel is the light of Christ." Ron concludes, "The reason why we do what we do is to cause an effect in people's lives."

Sounds obvious, but amidst the laughter we parted with the knowledge that at the end of the day that's really what it's all about. CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.

Reader Comments

Posted by Crystal R Moore in Indiana (IN) @ 21:58 on May 23 2019

Wow I met them back in Knoxville Tennessee. During that time I had just given my life to the Lord and a friend invited me out to a concert. They may remember Knoxville College in Knoxville TN. My favorite rap is Listen to His Voice. I've learned and practiced it so much, I use this as an introduction to students always giving credit to Causn' Efekt. Love these guys and dancers So Cool. I freestyle myself and I'm a writer. I THANK GOD FOR THEM and will not forget them. GOD BLESS

The opinions expressed in the Reader Comments are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.

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