Tony Cummings looks at the forthcoming release and past history of electro-pop hitmaker, GAWVI
Gawvi, real name Gabriel Alberto Azucena, is the electro-pop hitmaker who has blended rap, pop and dance music and, in the process, clocked up six Dove Awards and an impressive 13 Cross Rhythms radio hits. However, his latest album, 'Heathen', is going to ruffle some feathers as he aims to "push against the Christian culture in hopes to deconstruct unhealthy cultural norms."
Gawvi, from the Bronx, New York, spoke about his new release, set to be issued by Reach Records on 10th April. He said, "'Heathen' is the album I feel most confident and true to myself especially with all the confusion going on in the world. With this record I wanted to say, 'Hey world, I've been labelled as a heathen, not because I am a sinner or a bad person, but because I went against the 'Christian culture mould'. Heathen actually means Ethnos in Greek, which stands for ethnicity and it also means gentiles. When it is used in the Bible, it is described as a person who was not Jewish or someone with a different cultural background. So it got me thinking, how did this word get lost in translation? And I realized, this is what happens to us as humans. At the beginning God designed us to be who we are meant to be, yet we let labels influence us and shape our identity. So I want to embrace the word 'heathen', and do something different with the Christian culture, and let people know that it is okay to live outside of the norm. When someone says to me 'What you are doing is not normal', my response is 'Thank you'."
'Heathen' was recorded in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and was produced by Gawvi himself. It also features collaborations from a wide range of artists, including Israel Houghton, fellow labelmate Trip Lee, Aklesso, Wordsplayed, Daramola, Wxlf, Parris Chariz and Tommy Royale.
Born in the Bronx in 1988, Azucena was raised in Miami and grew up listening to Latin and Caribbean music. He began producing under the name G-Styles in 2008, working with Trip Lee and Reach co-founder Lecrae. He officially became the label's in-house producer in 2012, and produced artists such as KB, Andy Mineo and Tedashii. Many of these albums charted high not only on Billboard's Christian and Gospel Albums charts, but the mainstream Billboard 200. Lecrae's 2014 album, 'Anomaly', which Azucena helped produce, was the first album to top both the Billboard 200 and the Gospel Albums charts.
In 2016 Gawvi signed to Reach Records as a solo artist and began working on his debut EP, 'Lost In Hue'. It became a major hit, reaching number one on the iTunes Dance Album chart. Another EP, 'Holding Hue', produced more radio hits and by the time he released his debut studio album, 'We Belong', he was well established in the CCM community.
After the release of his 'Panorama' album Gawvi was asked by the allaccess.com website whether the young producer who had started his music career a decade earlier was different from the Gawvi of 2018. He responded, "Gawvi who started as a young producer was hungry and wanting to create something new; something people hadn't created yet. Gawvi now is still hungry-still wants to shift the culture, but this Gawvi is more focused, has an amazing team around him and is more willing to trust his gut!"
Talking to the same website, Gawvi spoke about 'Panorama'. "I wanted to create an album where I was letting my listeners get a closer and more intimate look into my life. Sometimes as artists, we have a tendency to want to project the 'good' of everything. This time around, I wanted to share the whole picture. Let people in to see the good, the bad and the ugly. I wrote these songs for myself, but my intentions were that my honesty and truths would inspire the listener to know that it's okay to not be okay sometimes; and that there is still hope."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.