HIStory: Our Place in His Story – A Throwback Album Review By Addison Gill

Hailing from Philadelphia, running from the late 90s to the late 2000s, known for their deep theological lyricism mixed with urban edge, these legends in Christian Hip Hop have truly made history.


The Cross Movement has been a staple in Christian Hip Hop pretty much since their first release  in 1997. After over a decade in the industry, 7 albums, the start of a record label, and a few solo projects, The Tonic, Phanatik, Tru-Life and The Ambassador decided to wrap things up with their 7th and final album HIStory: Our Place in His Story in 2007.


The album opens with the track “Our God” led by the Ambassador, a very upbeat track that glorifies the attributes of God with a very 2000’s flavor. A classic in my opinion a definitely a great way to open


The second track “Louder” with Tru-Life emceeing speaks of living out loud in our representation of Christ. This song has a bit of a vintage groove to it with a hip hop beat on top that matches the sound of 2007. 


“Trust in Him” with The Ambassador and featuring Robert “Don” Barham on vocals also borrows funk sounds from the days of old and infuses it into hip hop. The message of the song is fairly self explanatory but it also acknowledges and uplifts the attributes of God.


“Spare Change” led by The Tonic is a description of the state of humanity through the eyes of a man looking for things to get better. Spare Change is a pun and allegory. Spare Change usually means coins but in this case it is actually a plea for a change of behavior in the culture. 


“Tapestry” is a song led by The Phanatik and to be honest there isn’t too much I can say about this record. Mainly because he says so much I can never remember what it was actually about. I believe it’s an appeal type song urging listeners to join into the family of Christ or His tapestry. What I can say however is that Phanatik is a talented lyricist and it shows in this song. 


“9-10” led by The Tonic is a description of the 9/11 terrorist attacks before and after they occurred. Even though the subject matter is sad and not my usual cup of tea, it’s actually one of my favorite songs on the album. Tonic has a true talent for storytelling and painting pictures through his rhymes. I think that this is arguably the best performance of his career. 


“Back for This” is definitely a unique one. It’s common in Hip Hop, especially Christian Hip Hop to hear a song that is a story about some other person who’s struggling with some sin or life issue. Well Back for This, featuring Tru-Life, is about a phone call with a friend, Greg, who got in a fight and accidentally shot and killed someone. Tru-Life then encourages his Greg to turn himself in. That’s about it. And for some reason this song doesn’t  sit right with me. It’s kind of sad because Greg does end up in prison. I guess I just don’t see why this song was necessary.

There’s a line where Tru-Life tells his friend to turn himself in because he’s a Christian, and I mean he’s right. Taking someone’s life should be met with a consequence but the song also explains that the fight started to protect a victim and Greg never intended to kill the other man. He simply came to someone else’s defense. Apparently that didn’t matter.  I wonder if a non-believer, new believer, or young person would hear this and think that “doing the right things” won’t always work in their favor and then turn away from integrity. On the other hand I guess the song was simply a cautionary tale and warning to not get caught up into street life and violence, which I can agree with. I guess it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Overall that song in and of itself was decent. 


“Clap Your Hands” features Ambassador and JR. It’s a song that encourages the listener to clap their hands in gratitude and praise to Jesus. Because of the beat and hook alone this song isn’t my favorite track on the album, but the verses themselves are decent however


“Name Up”  is led by all four members and guest featuring Tedashii of Reach Records. In simplest form, this song is about lifting up the name of Jesus. This song is also very 2007. It reminded me of some of Lecrae’s earlier work.  Another thing that I’d like to point out is that even though Tedashii is on the chorus, it really sounds nothing like him. He did something to alter or deepen his voice and Phanatik did that as well. I suppose it was the trend at the time.


“Get That” led by Tonic in my opinion is the certified classic of the album. I remember this song being stuck in my head in high school. Get That I suppose is the Cross Movement’s answer to club or dance music. Walk It Out and Crank That were also released that year and in a way that’s what the song addresses. It’s about dancing and praising God without doing anything too wild or provocative as they chant “Get that, get that, get it on the floor”.


“Now Who’s the Man?” featuring Phanatik is a song that gives God His propers and speaks of how great He really is. The real significance of this track is that it is part two to the song “Who’s the Man” that Phanatik performed on Cross Movement’s first album Heaven’s Mentality 10 years prior. I really like the full circle moment.


“Clarity” by Tru-Life is also a bit on the darker side but overall it has a decent sound. The song is basically about changing our perspectives and seeing things the way God does. It briefly tells the story of a few individuals who are likely to be judged but suggest that there is more to their story and meets the eye.


“Big Things” features all four members of the Cross Movement. (Although Phanatik doesn’t actually rap). In essence it speaks about how our small accomplishments become large and impactful when put in God’s hands. God uses us and our story and journey to carry out His will. This track uses samples from the song “To Be Free to Be Who We Are” sung by Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. I really liked the sample and think it paired well with the beat and helped the emotion of the song. There is an interesting fact that I’d like to point out however. In Big Things it sounds as if the sample is saying “big things to me” which would make sense because it matches the song title. However when you go back and listen to the original recording it doesn’t like “big things to me” at all. It’s actually hard to make out what he said at all but I believe it was “to be free to be” which would match the title of that song. So what does this mean? I honestly think Cross Movement and the producer of this song played a psychological trick on the listener. The emcees on the song say the phrase “big things” and and the title of the song is Big Things so of course our brains would think that’s what the sample said as well. I suppose there could be a different explanation for why this occurred but for now I’ll stick to my theory. This may be one of my favorite songs on the album right now and definitely my favorite of the songs I didn’t know already.


“The Last Cypha ” is pretty self explanatory, it’s the Last Cypher. It’s actually a call back to all Cross Movements previous albums that all end in cyphers. So here is another full circle moment for the album. This song also uses a sample that I love. “Am I Black Enough for You” sung by Billy Paul. I guess there’s just something about 70’s music mixed with hip-hop. This song features All four members in addition to Trip Lee, Da’T.R.U.T.H, R.Swift, Mac the Doulos, Iz-Real and FLAME. I like how for the last song of the album they decided to feature some young and/or up and coming artists. It was almost a symbol for the passing of the baton as Cross Movement was stepping down. 


Whenever I buy an album, especially one that is available for streaming, the most important component of the album for me is really the sleeve. I like to know all of the background information if I can. Who wrote on it, who produced it, what was sampled, who played a certain instrument, etc. and if possible the lyrics to the songs. Because this is so important to me, I wanted to include it in the review. 


Before I listened to the whole album, I was starting to question whether or not it was a good purchase. The sleeve definitely made it worth it. One disappointing factor was that it did not include lyrics but what I did really like is that it had  the full timeline of their career with pictures from the beginning to the end. A very nice touch. It’s probably the best sleeve I’ve seen and a great idea for a final album. 


By the way I also noticed on the timeline on the front cover that all of their albums have started with the letter H. Heaven’s Mentality, House of Representatives, Human Emergency, Holy Culture, Higher Definition, and HIStory. I’m not sure if that was intentional or not although it probably was, it’s still a pretty cool find.

There were a few songs that I didn’t mention because I didn’t have a whole lot to write about them. I Love You, Whatchu Say, and We Were They. That doesn’t mean these songs aren’t worth listening to. This album is available on all of the major streaming services and you should definitely go check it out. 

In conclusion this was a pretty decent album and I don’t feel as if I wasted my money. I’ve always wanted to do reviews like this and be a gospel music collector and historian so honestly I’ll probably never completely feel as if I wasted my money. Overall I’d give this album an 8.5/10. I didn’t love every song on the album but I did love the sleeve and consider this album a classic. There’s a certain nostalgia that comes with this album for me.. This is Cross Movement’s last album. It was the end of an era and I’m sure they and their fans were somewhat emotional about the finality of this production. Many people say that the end of one thing is just the beginning of another. That rings true when I think of this album. HIStory was the end of Cross Movement  but it was my introduction to it. Spare Change was the first Cross Movement song I ever heard. And even though it isn’t my favorite song it was an intro to my favorite rap group to this day. If I never heard Spare Change on Pandora, I might not have looked up Cross Movement on my mom’s tablet and fallen in love with the House of Representatives, and I might not be making this video. So all in all this album will always have a special place in my heart.