I grew up Presbyterian, evangelical Presbyterian. Churched in the ’90s, as a teenager, you were handed two things – an NIV translation of the Bible and a copy of DC Talk’s Free at Last. You didn’t receive one without the other, and frankly, in hindsight, reading the Bible would have probably gotten me more chicks.
Free at Last is a refuge for uninspired, white boy rap. Uninspired Christian white boy rap. If Vanilla Ice got religion and then made a record with Amy Grant’s producer, they’d make a better record than Free at Last. It would be unlistenable, but you know, it’d still be better.
And yet, here I am, a film geek and audiophile listening to an album I would normally burn by bonfire, and I would dance around that bonfire with glee knowing I had saved a soul from aural hell. There will be no dancing and no bonfires. Alas, it is so, and I can do nothing to change that sad, sad fact.
Free at Last is a record that spells its songs incorrectly to appear more relevant. Observe: “Luv is a Verb” and “Word 2 the Father”. I know the words to both. On “Luv is a Verb”, I sing along with “Thinkin’ of a way to explain-o / Cause ya know when I’m flowin’ like a bottle of drain-o.” I do so without a hint of sarcasm. As I sing “Word, say word 2 the Father / Above any other, say word to the Father / Pump, pump, pump, pump it up!” I pump my fist in time – in my car in 5 o’clock traffic. Represent. This one’s for the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Word.
DC Talk covers their bases. What Contemporary Christian record aimed at teens would be complete without an ode to abstinence? That’s right. There was an entire generation of horny teenagers singing “I Don’t Want It” and really trying to mean it. “Safe is the way they say to play / Then again safe ain’t safe at all today / So just wait for the mate that’s straight from God / Don’t have sex til you tie the knot.” Condoms from the school nurse? I don’t think so.
I still attend a Presbyterian church, evangelical Presbyterian (what some might say should be a guilty pleasure), and I still listen to Free at Last. There is no defense of such a record, and yet, I love it. Unabashedly. Truly. I listen to it several times a year. I sing along. I sing loud, and I sing proud, lifting a sanctified middle finger to anyone saying I shouldn’t, can’t – in good conscience – listen to such terrible, awful music.