We Belong, the debut album by producer-turned-solo artist Gawvi, is the kind of feel-good soundtrack we need to counter the alienating and divisive rhetoric of our times.
Gawvi’s new electro pop/hip-hop/Latin-infused album, We Belong, runs 53 minutes and includes 14 tracks, leading off with the hypnotic “Rock N Roll” (featuring Elhae) and infectious drum-laden and synth-centered “God Speed” (with Andy Mineo and KB). There are nearly a dozen features from various artists representing a breadth of flavors that almost any listener can vibe with on We Belong.
Besides delivering plain good lyrics and fresh, inviting beats, there is an authenticity to We Belong as a carefully-crafted body of work intended to have a certain impact.
Gawvi (born Gabriel Alberto Azucena) is the award-winning producer behind numerous hits from Reach Records artists such as Lecrae and Andy Mineo.
“I’m like, the (label’s) first pop/EDM guy,” he told me weeks before We Belong‘s release.
Gawvi, who won a GMA Dove Award for his work on Lecrae’s Anomaly in 2015, has been producing music professionally since 2008. However, the 28-year-old Bronx-born, Florida-raised Latino American has been making beats since he was 12—and it shows. The producer/singer/songwriter, formerly known as G-Styles, has also worked with hit-makers Rodney Jerkins and Pharrell Williams.
In 2016, Gawvi released two EPs, Lost in Hue and Holding Hue, with the former hitting no. 2 on the Billboard Dance/Electronic charts and the albums earning him millions of rotations on Spotify.
Now, he’s back with We Belong, leaving no doubt about his talents as a lyricist, singer and producer.
Gawvi describes We Belong as “an earnest and pulsating battle cry, a statement of hope, truth, and acceptance that is apropos for our time.”
Gawvi lays out that intention to inspire and unite when he sings on “Like We Belong,” the third track on the album:
“We are one DNA, different strands of the same thing, you and I. Yeah, you and I. Why do we hide ourselves inside our different shelves? Live someone else’s truth? Sing someone else’s tune? Why are we so obsessed with trying to be perfect? When will we understand? When will we understand? — We belong here. We belong together.
That is a message that just about anyone of any faith or social location can embrace—unless their business is division. “Like We Belong” is an uplifting message with an upbeat tempo and a simple hook that speaks to the times.
But, “Like We Belong” is not the first single Gawvi chose to release. Instead, he and his team went with “Closer” (featuring Robbie Lee and Julissa Leilani). “Closer” is a bass-heavy and dance-friendly confession of God’s unique and unrelenting love.
“There is definitely a lot of culture in it. It’s like an ’80s pop, retro, trap party. Every emotion you can think of, that’s what it is,” Gawvi said of We Belong during our interview. “But there’s a lot of worship. Like, you will not question at all if whoever the guy is on this album (is Christian). You will know right off the bat, which I wanted to make very clear like, ‘Hey, I’m worshipping God in this song.”
Gawvi doesn’t hit you over the head with explicit theology, like some of his Reach Records peers might do with their lyrics. Instead, We Belong declares the artist’s faith in, dependence on, and love for God with subtlety. Those declarations may prove too subtle for some listeners, but that is a risk of creating good music that nearly anyone can latch onto and make their own.
“I want people to be able to listen to my album and every single person enjoy it, whether it’s your mom, your next door neighbor, a Muslim, whatever background you are culturally, I need to connect with you somehow,” he explained. “That’s my biggest purpose—I want to bring the gospel in that way. I just want people to feel like they belong in the whole process.”
The producer/singer/songwriter believes “strongly in pushing the limits for a lot of genres whether it’s through Christian music or non-Christian” music.
He wants to help pioneer EDM music in the CCM (Contemporary Christian music) market.
“When I look at the Christian industry right now, there’s not an avenue or place for EDM/pop music. There [are] a lot of people doing that [who] are phenomenal at doing it, people like Capital Kings or Britt Nicole. But I don’t think there’s even an award for us at the Dove Awards or anything,” he said.
“I want to shift culture within Christian music, too,” Gawvi added. “I want people to be very excited about new sounds. That’s what I’m trying to accomplish. I want to shift culture.”
Gawvi certainly has released some dope music into the world, and I suspect the effort will pay in dividends.
We Belong is fresh, inspiring and speaks truth. The album presents a message and mood that stay with you long after the music stops.