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Valley Life | sounds

Christians on the Edge

Valley artists push mainstream music into hip-hop territory.

October 13, 2000|TOM ROLAND | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Christian industry has some concern about artists "selling out" in that process. The Gospel Music Assn. last year disqualified releases by Sixpence and Michael W. Smith from contention for Dove awards because the songs were not blatantly Christian, even though the artists are.

" 'Kiss Me' [by Sixpence] was never meant to be a song for our marketplace," said Frank Breeden, president of the Gospel Music Assn. "It was a great song written for the mainstream. We did not want to appear disingenuous by honoring something that wasn't for our marketplace."

Micah's Ross and his wife, Carol, lead the God First Artists Fellowship, a group for Christian artists that meets the first Thursday of each month at the Church on the Way. At September's meeting, he sounded like a football coach at halftime, encouraging the handful of artists in attendance to stay true to their cause.

"Don't ever let your calling be dictated by the buck," he told them.

God First is one of the few formal methods in which Christian artists in the Valley have been able to link up. The founders of Jesus Jam, a hotline at (310) 289-5635 that updates callers on Christian performances throughout the Southland, also encourage networking.

And L.A. Voice, a Valley-based Christian publication, provides a forum for artists to publicize their activities.

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Otherwise, the Valley's Christian performers are on their own, struggling to make a living and deliver their message in a city whose entertainment community has come under political fire for marketing objectionable music and movies to teens. That dichotomy, they say, is a motivating factor for their work.

"How many times do you hear the stereotypical line on TV--if California's gonna do it, the rest of the country follows suit," said MYX's Blackwell.

"That's all the more reason to be in Los Angeles, to have that influence, that relationship with a porn guy next to us when we buy a burrito. I want the world to be real to me. I don't wanna be in a bubble. What better place to be."

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