Hip Hop, Hardcore Featured At Creation West

Despite the hot weather and lack of shade, spirits were not dampened at the opening of the Creation West 2005 Fringe Stage last Thursday as hundreds of Falling Up fans waited patiently for over 30 minutes while staff trouble shot technical difficulties.

“The Fringe Stage was sweet,” said Falling Up frontman Jessy Ribordy after the band’s performance. “There were a ton of people and they were just rockin’.”

Moshing, fist pumping and jumping were all common sights during performances at the Fringe Stage, which hosts “hard music” acts such as Mute Math, The Myriad, Roper, and Number One Gun, all of whom performed on Thursday’s set.

“For me, it’s really kinda the bass and the electric guitar, just the sound of it – that you can feel it while they’re playing – and it’s not all mellowed out, it can get you hyped up and pump you up, and it’s just something fun to listen to,” said Jeffrey Bother, 15, about his favorite aspect of hard music.

And while many church goers still disagree that hard music can legitimately “pump you up” for Christ, Ribordy thinks otherwise.

“It’s really awesome to see God work on the Fringe Stage,” said Jessy, “because we get a lot of junk from parents and pastors who are like, ‘How can you worship to that?’ But it’s not about us, it’s not about rock n’ roll, it’s about God; it’s worshipping. You can’t say that you need to worship this way or that way because it’s not for you. Some people say, ‘I like worship music to be soft,’ but it’s not about your opinion, it’s about God, and if it means that you’re going to worship Him by screaming or you’re going to play the acoustic guitar, then I’m cool with it. I love all those worship guys like MercyMe, they’re awesome, but we’re one of those bands that scream and worship like that.”

Hard music was not just heard from this year’s Fringe Stage either, as rock bands Pillar, Kutless, and Skillet received main stage billing at the festival.

Another genre more prominently featured at this year’s Creation Fest than in the past was hip-hop, with rapper KJ-52 hitting the main stage on Friday afternoon and Forefront artist tobyMac performing the closing set on Thursday night.

“Every band [at Creation] has their unique sound, but it’s refreshing to me and my band members- it’s encouraging to them that we could even headline tonight,” said Toby during a press conference. “It really tells me that Creation, where I got started, are the ones that are taking that chance and putting us on the last slot of the night, and that’s a blessing.”

KJ-52, a 10+ year veteran in the music industry, says he’d like to see Christian hip-hop reach mainstream acceptance level before his career is over.

“I’d like to see more of a shift in what’s called the gatekeepers of the industry…that being the radio programmers, retail promoters, the people who really hold the power…just maybe either them coming to an understanding of what [Christian hip-hop] is about, or guys like myself being able to come into that aspect [of the industry], moving behind the scenes, to where it’s not weird to hear hip-hop on a regular Christian station,” said KJ. “I would really like to see where [Christian hip-hop is] to the point where we’re just like what’s going on in the mainstream, I don’t mean content, but the acceptance level.”

KJ believes that it’s the message of the Gospel, as contrasted to the “sex, drugs, and guns,” of mainstream hip-hop that keeps Christian rap from reaching the mainstream.

“I sat down with the biggest secular radio hip-hop station program director in Dallas and played him my record, and he went through the entire record and said ‘This is as awesome album, but I can’t play it because of the content,’” said KJ during a press conference. “It’s our message [that holds us back]; we’re the smell of death for a lot of people.”

And while KJ still struggles to find a solution to bringing Christian rap to the mainstream, success at radio and retail is not what concerns him the most.

“I don’t know what the answer is,” said KJ, “all I know is that all I can do for myself is just continue to do what I feel God wants me to do. And if that means that I never sell more than 150,000 copies, then so what. I may not sell a million records, but if I’ve affected a million souls, that’s all that matters.”

Creation Fest 2005 West began on July 27 at the Gorge Amphitheater, in George, Washington.