The Cross Movement Biography
The Cross Movement, based in Philadelphia, PA, is comprised of four solo artists who share a common interest in communicating the Gospel message through hip-hop music. They are John "The Tonic" Wells; William "Ambassador" Branch; Brady "Phanatik" Goodwin; and Virgil "T.R.U.–L.I.F.E." Byrd, whose name summarizes one of his deepest convictions—To Rightfully Understand the Lord Is Forever Existing. Their new album, Holy Culture, exhorts believers to make the message of sanctification known to the world. John "The Tonic" Wells says, "The name Holy Culture comes from the book of John, Chapter 17, where Jesus is praying for His disciples before He faces crucifixion. He asks God to sanctify them by the truth, and not to remove them from the world. The Lord didn't call us to be removed from the culture; therefore, The Cross Movement is striving to infiltrate the culture with the message of God's holiness."
The Cross Movement has been featured in national media including The Washington Post, The Source Magazine, and Time Magazine. Time Magazine found The Cross Movement's lyrics to be so compelling that they referred to the Ambassador's rap "Blood Spilla" as the voice to educate America on the new pop music. The Source Magazine, known in the entertainment industry as THE magazine of the Hip-Hop culture, focused on The Cross Movement for their 2001 Christian rap feature, "God Is On the Mic." FEED Magazine, the premier Christian Hip-Hop magazine, offered four different covers featuring The Cross Movement on its January 2003 issue.
The members of The Cross Movement were originally members of other Christian rap groups who ministered up and down the east coast in the early 1990s. Their zeal for spreading the Gospel became their common thread, and in 1994, they formed The Cross Movement and Cross Movement Ministries to serve as an umbrella organization for their groups. In the years to follow, God would knit the rap artists closer together and send them other ministry-minded men who used Hip-Hop as a tool for evangelism. Explains The Tonic, "After many nights of prayer, Bible study, and honing our craft, we knew it was clear that the Lord wanted to bring all of us together. We made a covenant to support one another as we worked together toward our common goals, and that is when we named ourselves 'The Cross Movement'."
Word of the group spread quickly throughout the northeast, and many labels started to take interest. But the group decided to remain focused on their vision, and produced and sold their records independently. That is when they created Cross Movement Records. They released four albums on the label: Heaven's Mentality (1997), House of Representatives (1999), The Ambassador's solo project—Christology: In Laymen's Terms (1999) and Human Emergency (2000). House of Representatives and Human Emergency sold over 150,000 copies combined—a success story for a young label owned and operated by its artist. Their consistent impact and growth continued to fuel the interest of other record labels, and in early 2003, Cross Movement Records partnered with Seattle-based BEC Recordings for the release of the Holy Culture.
Kevin Sheppard, Director of Sales for BEC, says, "I've followed The Cross Movement closely for seven years, and in my view, they set the standard in their merger of hip-hop and the pursuit of holiness. In the early 90's, artists like Public Enemy, Dr, Dre, and Snoop Dogg helped lift hip-hop out of its niche and into the collective consciousness of mainstream America and beyond. BEC Recordings believes The Cross Movement can and will have the same impact across the Christian cultural landscape and beyond."
Musically, Holy Culture is a return to The Cross Movement's East Coast-flavored roots, which the group credits as their main musical influence. In touch with hip-hop's current pulse, The Cross Movement employed more mid-tempo beats and a few soulful singing hooks that aim to ease the apprehensions of the album's "curious" listeners. The title track challenges non-believers about the ill rewards of a godless life. The radio single "Cry No More" is featured on the urban soundtrack for the movie Left Behind II: Tribulation Force (Distributed by Diamante/The Butterfly Group). "Closer To You" expresses an individual's longing to draw closer to God and have a deeper relationship with Him, while the upbeat party mix "Start Something" encourages believers to put their faith into action. "In Not Of" calls for believers to impact society by living a godly lifestyle.
The Cross Movement has also started a non-profit organization called Cross Movement Ministries. Their mission is to see all of those who are a part of, or affected by hip-hop culture, presented with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Currently, the ministry is planning the development of discipleship materials and evangelistic crusades in addition to building an urban youth learning center located within the Philadelphia area.