In just a few years audiences at numerous churches, conferences, concerts and events have been treated to the music ministry of 4 Given 4.
While performing favorites from their album “In Our Own Way” the young ladies have earned the loyalty of fans who affectionately refer to them as the “Queens of Crunk.”
For nearly 30 years hip-hop music has been used to send a message, and 4 Given 4’s goal is to use it to illuminate God and restore hope to the hurting.
“Our basic goal is to go out into the streets and let everyone, especially youth, know that they can receive God’s love and they don’t have to do drugs or sell their body,” said group member Diamond Bush. “We want to reach them on a level they can relate to with hip-hop.”
Although traditional elements of the Christian community frown upon hip-hop as a corrupted art form, there is no doubt that a demand for Christian rap music exists, as shown by the success of artists such as the Cross Movement, Grits and Knowdaverbs.
4 Given 4 itself has been asked to appear at several church and community events in eight states and performed during Bishop T.D. Jakes’ Mega Fest in Atlanta this year.
Their local following has grown to such a level that popular hip-hop radio station WHHH-FM (96.3) has agreed to play tracks from their upcoming sophomore release, “Renewed Mindz.”
Fans have been attracted to the fact that although 4 Given 4’s music is Christian based, the group has a strong delivery of lyrics over catchy “street” beats, making the group’s music as hard and tough as the secular rap songs teens normally hear.
“Most people still don’t know that there’s gospel rap out there, so they’re excited when they finally hear it,” said group member LaDena “Furious” Matthews. “I always love playing it for people and hearing how they react. They’re like, ‘Wow, that’s gospel music? That sounds good.’”
4 Given 4’s manager, Ron Barnes, is steering the group toward diverse audiences.
“I want them to be able to reach out to everyone and be able to appear on stage with anyone, from church groups to artists outside the church like T.I.”
4 Given 4, one of the nation’s few all-female gospel rap groups, features Bush, 15, Matthews, 17, Shardae “Whisper” Gilbert and Tatiauna “T-Storm” Matthews.
The quartet’s story began when the two Matthews sisters began rapping together, and later recruited cousins Bush and Gilbert. Another cousin introduced them to Barnes, who is a former member of NAP, an Indianapolis rap group that was popular during the ‘90s.
The group’s name comes from Psalm 31:1, which states, “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sin is covered.”
Beneath the attention that comes with 4 Given 4’s growing music ministry is four normal teenage girls. LaDena Matthews and Gilbert are students at Northwest High School, and Bush attends Pike High School. Tatiauna Matthews is a graduate of Northwest.
In their spare time the young women, who attend Phillips Temple C.M.E. Church, enjoy a variety of activities, including choreography, outreach ministries, basketball, track and writing music and poetry.
Their musical influences range from national icons such as Kirk Franklin, Kanye West and Mr. Del to regional figures like Smooth P and Lil’-I-Rocc.
In November the group will host a massive “Crunk Fest” featuring both gospel and secular artists. A national distribution deal has been arranged for the upcoming “Renewed Mindz” CD, which comes out no later than January.
4 Given 4, who credit their success to God and family support, believe that the new project is much more powerful than their first release.
“This new album will be designed not just for the church, but also for the streets,” said Tatiauna Matthews. “We’ll be getting into some really personal issues that everyone can relate to.”
For more information about 4 Given 4 log on to www.4Given4.net.