No, Pastor Troy & the Congregation aren't some Kirk Franklin-style neo-gospel outfit. They're a hard-hitting Southern hip-hop collective, and with this album they've ascended from cult status to mainstream success. As exemplified by the centerpiece track "Ghetto Raised," with its breathless litany of the bleak options facing ghetto denizens, these cuts are full of a tightly compressed, even claustrophobic energy that bespeaks too many years spent on the low-rent side of boom-economy America.
On several of the cuts, the arrangements are nicely adorned by the addition of horns, a touch that also serves to separate Troy and company's very Southern approach from that of either coast. Memphis hip-hop entrepreneur S.M.K's production skills and Skinny Pimp's vocal contribution to the arresting "Look What I'm Goin' Thru" play a crucial part in making Book 1 such a successful outing. In the end, though, it's all down to Pastor Troy & the Congregation, who keep the beats and rhymes coming at an unrelenting pace throughout.