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Franklin, Kirk 1970–

Kirk Franklin 1970

Gospel singer

Adolescent Challenges and Salvation

Interscope Connection Ruffled Feathers

Marriage Aided Recovery After Fall

Selected discography

Sources

Image not available for copyright reasons

My message is simple and plain, Kirk Franklin insisted in the Los Angeles Times. Im trying to change the way people look at gospel music. Its not corny, and its not hokey. Were not just running around here with some choir robes on, yelling and screaming. Its not about that anymore, kid. The charismatic Franklin has achieved mainstream success thanks to a fusion of hip-hop-flavored style and hardcore religious content. Where other gospel acts had replaced Jesus and God with Him and You in hopes of winning over pop listeners, Franklin has never blunted his proselytizing. At the same time, the recordings and concerts by the singer and his gospel group, The Family, have achieved sales that would be respectable even by secular standards and won a bevy of honors. And despite a serious injury following a fall in 1996, Franklin has kept his eye on the real prize. When I try to reach people, its by any means necessary, he told the Tri-State Defender. The purpose is to win them. I spread the word of God through my music, and thats how souls are wonregardless of where its heard.

Franklins own soul underwent considerable turmoil in his youth. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, to a teenage mother, he never knew his father and was adopted at the age of 3 by the only mother he ever really knewhis great-aunt Gertrude-who raised him vigilantly. She taught me everything, the singer told Cheo Hodari Cokerof the Los Angeles Times. She taught me how to respect people and respect myself, and thats something Ill never forget. A devout Baptist, Gertrude recognized and encouraged the boys profound musical gifts; money she and Kirk made from recycling cans and newspapers paid for his piano lessons. His obvious talent for church singing led to an offer of a record contract by the time he was 7, but Gertrude refused to consider such an offer, considering Kirks age. His precocity could not be kept under wraps forever, though, and by age 11 he was leading the adult choir at Mt. Rose Baptist Church. It was scary, he recalled to Coker. I was [in charge of] people 60 and older. Could you imagine someone that young telling their elders they were singing wrong?

Adolescent Challenges and Salvation

Despite his immersion in a religious environment, Franklin was not immune to the call of street life. I was

At a Glance

Born Kirk Smith c. 1970, Forth Worth, TX; raised by aunt, GertrudeFranklin.

Singer, songwriter, arranger and producer, c. 1990s-. Minister of music, Mt Rose Baptist Church, Fort Worth, c. 1981 ; wrote materialforandperfonriedonalbums/M Me by Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Mass Choir, 1991, and Livein Indianapolis by GMWA National Mass Choir, 1993; formed singinggroup the Fami ly and released album Kirk Franklin and the Family on Gospo-Centric label, 1993; apppeared in touring production of play HeSay, She Say ButWhat Does GodSay?, 1995; apppeared on album by R&B producer/star R. Kelly, 1995; formed production company, Fo YoSoul, c mid-1990s; produced album by gospel group Gods Property, 1996; sustained head injuries in fall from stage in Memphis, TN, 1996.

Addresses: Record company Gospo-Centric Records, 417 E. Regent St., Inglewood, CA 90301.

always a moody child, he reflected in Texas Monthly. In the house it was just me and an older woman. When I got around my peers, I was just buck wild, because I wanted to be a kid, you know? Fear of being called a church boy, he has noted in numerous interviews, motivated his acting out. I was more of a perpetrator than a hardcore G[angster], he asserted to Gannett News Service. I was always one of the brothers trying to be a gangster with all the other kids because I didnt want them to think I was soft, although I was. Though his behavior was hardly extreme by street standards, he hung around pool halls, smoked marijuana and got into fights; it was only when, at 15, he saw a friend die of an accidental shooting that he decided to change his life. I didnt think anyone could die so young, Franklin recollected to Coker of the Los Angeles Times. I knew what I was doing was wrong. That was a major trip for me.

The incident had profound implications for the singers path in life. It woke me up, he told Gannett. At 15 I had been in church all my life, but it wasnt in me. Further hardship ensued when he and his girlfriend had a child out of wedlock; she was left to care for the baby, Kerrion, for several years. What I had done was wrong, he reflected in Texas Monthly, but God forgave me, so I was able to forgive myself. Ultimately Franklin managed to place all his focus on his calling. Noted producer Milton Biggham heard a home demo tape Franklin had made and invited him to write material for a gospel album by the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Mass Choir. Franklin fulfilled this request on the Choirs 1991 release Will Let Nothing Separate Me and on 1993s Another Chance. He performed similar duties for the GMWA National Mass Choirs recording Live in Indianapolis.

But the vocalist wanted to perform his own material; to that end, he put together a 17-member singing group, the Family, culled in part from the DFW Mass Choir. I called my group the Family because it was the extended family that I never had and the sense of family I always wanted, he proclaimed to Coker. After turning down a deal with Savoy Records, they signed a recording contract with Gospo Centrica label run by gospel music industry veteran Vicki Mack-Latailladeand released their debut, Kirk Franklin and the Family, in 1993. Recorded at Grace Temple Church in Forth Worth, the album scored with such songs as Why We Sing and He Can Handle It. The Los Angeles Sentinel cited Mack-Lataillades advice to Franklin: I told him I didnt want gospel music to remain status quo; I wanted to make it for everybody, she pointed out.

Franklins uplifting, modern take on gospel refused to omit Jesus and the Lord from the lyricsas many gospel artists seeking mainstream fame have donebut at the same time pursued hip-hop fans with its up-to-date grooves and vocalizing. Though some purists objected to the appropriation of secular styles, Franklin brushed their qualms aside. Were doing it our way, he asserted in the Los Angeles Sentinel. If its different, well, get used to it, because its music inspired by God and its here to stay.

Initially, the debut album sold respectably for a gospel record. But over a year and half after its release, Drew Dawsonan urban-radio deejay in Virginiabegan playing Why We Sing regularly on his program; as a result, other secular radio stations began picking it up. Speaking to the Tri-State Defender, Dawson compared Franklin to multi-faceted R&B figure Babyface, another writer-performer-producer-arranger. Because [Franklinls so talented as a songwriter and musician and because theres no one around in gospel music that is doing it all, his stuff stands out, Dawson insisted. It stood out so much, in fact, that Franklin soon became a sensation in the pop music world, becoming the first gospel debut to sell a million copies. When my album started blowing upI mean when God started blessing meI started to go a lot of places, the singer related in USA Today, but it was like a giving a diamond to a 4-year-old kid.

And Franklin had to deal with the consequences of challenging an entrenched form, in this case an approach to gospel that drew firm distinctions between secular and sacred music. Gospel needs an edge, he asserted in the Michigan Chronicle, so that it will receive the same type of respect that other types of music get. For so long gospel didnt get much respect from the industry. Whats more, he pointed out in the same interview, his funky, contemporary approach drew in younger listeners. A lot of Christian young people are saying, Man, this music that we like to listen to on the urban stations is real funky and its jammin but a lot of the songs are so nasty, Franklin reported. Can yall give us something we can play in our Jeeps and ride down the street and pump to but its talking about Jesus? Franklin and the Family did just that, incorporating references to secular rap and hip-hop hits, but reworking the lyrics to address religious themes. His explosive approach appeared in Family concerts as well. Franklin came to us and said, We want lights, we want big sound, we want special effects, tour promoter Al Wash told the Los Angeles Sentinel, and now were putting on a show like no one else in gospel ever has.

Interscope Connection Ruffled Feathers

Franklin further scandalized gospels old guard by entering a production deal through Mack-Lataillades new company, B-Rite Records, which was distributed by the controversial Interscope Recordshome of the notorious rap label Death Row and such rock acts as Nine Inch Nails. Interscope co-founder Jimmy Iovine told the Los Angeles Times he considered Franklin an innovative artist with a long career ahead of him. Hes going to create a lot of avenues for artists in the genre that they dont have right now, continued the famed music executive. I think the spirit of gospel will expand and be an even more important factor in the pop world. Mack-Lataillade asserted in the same article that Franklin provided a corrective to the kind of music for which interscope had become infamous. Were on a mission, she proclaimed, adding, We want to show people that theres another way to go with the music. When Kirks music stops, people dont feel violent, and today thats worth something.

Franklin and the Family followed up their debut with a Christmas album, but it was Whatcha Lookin 4, a continuation of the pumped-up R&B-styled gospel that had made the first album a sensation, that was considered the true follow-up. The album hit the pop charts running and scored on both the gospel and R&B charts. Franklinwho played a pastor in the touring play He Say, She Say But What Does God Say? told Janice Malone of the Tennessee Tribune that he was untroubled by the high expectations that greeted the album. I just stayed focused and recognized that it had nothing to do with me, he insisted. I dont know about other artists, but its a lot different for me because I write all of my own material. By doing so it makes me more sensitive to the final outcome, song per song. Whenever I do a project, I dont pick out just one particular song. When God gives me the music, he also gives me the words to the song all together, so that was one worry, I didnt really have.

Marriage Aided Recovery After Fall

The singer married Tammy Renee Collins, a former member of the R&B group Ashanti; Shes wonderful, he exclaimed in USA Today. Shes my soul mate. He added, I hate the single life. Even though my music has a lot of urban appeal, Im still a church boy. Im not supposed to be seen with three or four different women. I want to represent not just the music but the lifestyle. He further insisted, in CCM, that his decision to marry Tammy was strengthened by Divine guidance. God told me, he claimed. When I was in my prayer time in Birmingham, Alabama, God spoke to me and told me He was pleased [about his plan to marry Collins]. And that He was pleased that she and I had waited [to be intimate] ... [Marriage] is making me think and feel like a man. For so long, I was a boy. I know Im a better man now that Im married. He brought his son into the marriage, and she her 7-year-old daughter; the two later had a child together.

His spouse would prove an additional pillar of strength when Franklin suffered a serious accident. In late 1996 he fell from the stage of North Hall Auditorium in Memphis after introducing opening act Yolanda Adams, landing in the orchestra pit and sustaining head injuries. After a hospital stay brightened by tens of thousands of postcards and phone calls from well-wishers, as Jet reported, Franklin convalesced and resumed his Tour of Life. His experience, he told Steve Jones of USA Today, deepened his appreciation for Tammy. I started looking at her differently and started holding her hand differently, he related. It was like I was falling in love all over again. Franklins desire to attend gospels Stellar Awards was so strong, his wife recalled, was strong even during the thick of his recovery. When he was in the hospital he was telling us he was going, she recalled to Jones. And we kept telling him, Youre not going anywhere/But he was like, Yes I am. Yes I am. So finally, when the doctors said it would be OK, we said all right.

Franklins appearance at the Stellar Awardsa mere month after his fallwas something of a valedictory. Billboards Lisa Collins reported that the singer Awas the nights big winner, thrilling the crowd with a performance and testimony that brought the crowd to its feet. Though he took home five awards, including artist of the year, Franklin expressed a larger goal to Collins. I wanted to make a fool out of the devil, he said. Youre not going to try to take my life and think Im not going to praise God. Im a living testimony.

Selected discography

Kirk Franklin and the Family

Kirk Franklin and the Family (includes Why We Sing and He Can Handle It), Gospo-Centric, 1993.

Christmas, Gospo-Centric, 1995.

Whatcha Lookiri 4, Gospo-Centric, 1996.

DFW Mass Choir

I Will Let Nothing Separate Me, Savoy, 1991.

Another Chance, Savoy, 1993.

Georgia Mass Choir, I Sing Because Im Happy, Savoy, 1992.

GMWA National Mass Choir, Live in Indianapolis, Benson Records, 1994.

Full Gospel Baptist Choir, A New Thing... Experience the Fullness, Gospo-Centric, 1995.

R. Kelly, R.Kelly, Jive, 1995.

Sources

Billboard, December 28, 1996, p. 16; February 15, 1997, p. 38.

CCM, August 1996.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 6, 1996.

Gannett News Service, June 21, 1996.

Jet, November 25, 1996, p. 33.

Los Angeles Times, July 7, 1996, p. 7.

Los Angeles Sentinel, November 21, 1996.

Michigan Chronicle, November 7, 1995.

Philadelphia Tribune, May 9, 1995.

Tennessee Tribune, December 4, 1996.

Texas Monthly, 1996.

Time, January 22, 1996.

Tri-State Defender, November 29, 1995.

USA Today, October 17, 1996; December 10, 1996; December 11, 1996.

Washington Afro-American, February 18, 1995.

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Simon Glickman

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Franklin, Kirk

Kirk Franklin

1970(?)

Gospel singer

"My message is simple and plain," Kirk Franklin insisted in the Los Angeles Times. "I'm trying to change the way people look at gospel music. It's not corny, and it's not hokey. We're not just running around here with some choir robes on, yelling and screaming. It's not about that anymore, kid." The charismatic Franklin has achieved mainstream success thanks to a fusion of hip-hop-flavored style and hardcore religious content. Where other gospel acts had replaced "Jesus" and "God" with "Him" and "You" in hopes of winning over pop listeners, Franklin has never blunted his proselytizing. At the same time, the recordings and concerts by the singer and his gospel group, The Family, have achieved sales that would be respectable even by secular standards and won a bevy of honors. Despite his rise to stardom, Franklin has kept his eye on the real prize. "When I try to reach people, it's by any means necessary," he told the Tri-State Defender. "The purpose is to win them. I spread the word of God through my music, and that's how souls are wonregardless of where it's heard."

Franklin's own soul underwent considerable turmoil in his youth. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, to a teenage mother, he never knew his father and was adopted at the age of three by the only mother he ever really knewhis great-aunt Gertrudewho raised him vigilantly. "She taught me everything," the singer told Cheo Hodari Coker of the Los Angeles Times. "She taught me how to respect people and respect myself, and that's something I'll never forget." A devout Baptist, Gertrude recognized and encouraged the boy's profound musical gifts; money she and Kirk made from recycling cans and newspapers paid for his piano lessons. His obvious talent for church singing led to an offer of a record contract by the time he was seven, but Gertrude refused to consider such an offer, considering Kirk's age. His precociousness could not be kept under wraps forever, though, and by age 11 he was leading the adult choir at Mt. Rose Baptist Church. "It was scary," he recalled to Coker. "I was [in charge of] people 60 and older. Could you imagine someone that young telling their elders they were singing wrong?"

Despite his immersion in a religious environment, Franklin was not immune to the call of street life. "I was always a moody child," he reflected in Texas Monthly. "In the house it was just me and an older woman. When I got around my peers, I was just buck wild, because I wanted to be a kid, you know?" Fear of being called a "church boy," he has noted in numerous interviews, motivated his acting out. "I was more of a perpetrator than a hardcore G[angster]," he asserted to Gannett News Service. "I was always one of the brothers trying to be a gangster with all the other kids because I didn't want them to think I was soft, although I was." Though his behavior was hardly extreme by street standards, he hung around pool halls, smoked marijuana and got into fights; it was only when, at 15, he saw a friend die of an accidental shooting that he decided to change his life. "I didn't think anyone could die so young," Franklin recollected to Coker of the Los Angeles Times. "I knew what I was doing was wrong. That was a major trip for me."

The incident had profound implications for the singer's path in life. "It woke me up," he told Gannett. "At 15 I had been in church all my life, but it wasn't in me." Further hardship ensued when he and his girlfriend had a child out of wedlock; she was left to care for the baby, Kerrion, for several years. "What I had done was wrong," he reflected in Texas Monthly, "but God forgave me, so I was able to forgive myself." Ultimately Franklin managed to place all his focus on his calling. Noted producer Milton Biggham heard a home demo tape Franklin had made and invited him to write material for a gospel album by the Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) Mass Choir. Franklin fulfilled this request on the Choir's 1991 release I Will Let Nothing Separate Me and on 1993's Another Chance. He performed similar duties for the GMWA National Mass Choir's recording Live in Indianapolis.

But the vocalist wanted to perform his own material; to that end, he put together a 17-member singing group, the Family, culled in part from the DFW Mass Choir. "I called my group the Family because it was the extended family that I never had and the sense of family I always wanted," he proclaimed to Coker. After turning down a deal with Savoy Records, they signed a recording contract with Gospo Centrica label run by gospel music industry veteran Vicki Mack-Latailladeand released their debut, Kirk Franklin and the Family, in 1993. Recorded at Grace Temple Church in Forth Worth, the album scored with such songs as "Why We Sing" and "He Can Handle It." The Los Angeles Sentinel cited Mack-Lataillade's advice to Franklin: "I told him I didn't want gospel music to remain status quo; I wanted to make it for everybody," she pointed out.

Franklin's uplifting, modern take on gospel refused to omit "Jesus" and "the Lord" from the lyricsas many gospel artists seeking mainstream fame have donebut at the same time pursued hip-hop fans with its up-to-date grooves and vocalizing. Though some purists objected to the appropriation of secular styles, Franklin brushed their qualms aside. "We're doing it our way," he asserted in the Los Angeles Sentinel. "If it's different, well, get used to it, because it's music inspired by God and it's here to stay."

Initially, the debut album sold respectably for a gospel record. But over a year and half after its release, Drew Dawsonan urban-radio deejay in Virginiabegan playing "Why We Sing" regularly on his program; as a result, other secular radio stations began picking it up. Speaking to the Tri-State Defender, Dawson compared Franklin to multifaceted R&B figure Babyface, another writer-performer-producer-arranger. "Because [Franklin]'s so talented as a songwriter and musician and because there's no one around in gospel music that is doing it all, his stuff stands out," Dawson insisted. It stood out so much, in fact, that Franklin soon became a sensation in the pop music world, becoming the first gospel debut to sell a million copies. "When my album started blowing upI mean when God started blessing meI started to go a lot of places," the singer related in USA Today, "but it was like a giving a diamond to a 4-year-old kid."

At a Glance

Born Kirk Smith in 1970(?) in Forth Worth, TX; raised by aunt, Gertrude Franklin; married Tammy Renee Collins, 1996; children: four.

Career: Mt. Rose Baptist Church, Fort Worth, TX, choir director, 1981(?); singer, songwriter, arranger and producer, 1991. Fo Yo Soul production company, founder, 199(?).

Awards: Dove Award, 1994, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2002, and 2003; Grammy Award, 1996, 1997, 1998; Stellar Award, 1996. BMI Christian Songwriter of the Year, three-way tie, 2003; NAACP Image Award, Outstanding Album, for The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin, Outstanding Song, for "Brighter Day," and Outstanding Gospel Artist, 2003.

Addresses: Label Gospo-Centric Records, 417 E. Regent St., Inglewood, CA 90301.

And Franklin had to deal with the consequences of challenging an entrenched form, in this case an approach to gospel that drew firm distinctions between secular and sacred music. "Gospel needs an edge," he asserted in the Michigan Chronicle, "so that it will receive the same type of respect that other types of music get. For so long gospel didn't get much respect from the industry." What's more, he pointed out in the same interview, his funky, contemporary approach drew in younger listeners. "A lot of Christian young people are saying, 'Man, this music that we like to listen to on the urban stations is real funky and it's jammin' but a lot of the songs are so nasty,'" Franklin reported. "'Can y'all give us something we can play in our Jeeps and ride down the street and pump to but it's talking about Jesus?'" Franklin and the Family did just that, incorporating references to secular rap and hip-hop hits, but reworking the lyrics to address religious themes. His explosive approach appeared in Family concerts as well. "Franklin came to us and said, 'We want lights, we want big sound, we want special effects,'" tour promoter Al Wash told the Los Angeles Sentinel, "and now we're putting on a show like no one else in gospel ever has."

Franklin further scandalized gospel's old guard by entering a production deal through Mack-Lataillade's new company, B-Rite Records, which was distributed by the controversial Interscope Recordshome of the notorious rap label Death Row and such rock acts as Nine Inch Nails. Interscope co-founder Jimmy Iovine told the Los Angeles Times he considered Franklin "an innovative artist with a long career ahead of him. He's going to create a lot of avenues for artists in the genre that they don't have right now," continued the famed music executive. "I think the spirit of gospel will expand and be an even more important factor in the pop world." Mack-Lataillade asserted in the same article that Franklin provided a corrective to the kind of music for which Interscope had become infamous. "We're on a mission," she proclaimed, adding, "We want to show people that there's another way to go with the music. When Kirk's music stops, people don't feel violent, and today that's worth something."

Franklin and the Family followed up their debut with a Christmas album, but it was Whatcha Lookin' 4, a continuation of the pumped-up R&B-styled gospel that had made the first album a sensation, that was considered the true follow-up. The album hit the pop charts running and scored on both the gospel and R&B charts. Franklinwho played a pastor in the touring play He Say, She Say But What Does God Say? told Janice Malone of the Tennessee Tribune that he was untroubled by the high expectations that greeted the album. "I just stayed focused and recognized that it had nothing to do with me," he insisted. "I don't know about other artists, but it's a lot different for me because I write all of my own material. By doing so it makes me more sensitive to the final outcome, song per song. Whenever I do a project, I don't pick out just one particular song. When God gives me the music, he also gives me the words to the song all together, so that was one worry, I didn't really have."

In early 1996, the singer married Tammy Renee Collins, a former member of the R&B group Ashanti; "She's wonderful," he exclaimed in USA Today. "She's my soul mate." He added, "I hate the single life. Even though my music has a lot of urban appeal, I'm still a church boy. I'm not supposed to be seen with three or four different women. I want to represent not just the music but the lifestyle." He further insisted, in CCM, that his decision to marry Tammy was strengthened by Divine guidance. "God told me," he claimed. "When I was in my prayer time in Birmingham, Alabama, God spoke to me and told me He was pleased [about his plan to marry Collins]. And that He was pleased that she and I had waited [to be intimate][Marriage] is making me think and feel like a man. For so long, I was a boy. I know I'm a better man now that I'm married." He brought his son into the marriage, and she her 7-year-old daughter; the two later had a child together.

His spouse would prove an additional pillar of strength when Franklin suffered a serious accident. In late 1996 he fell from the stage of North Hall Auditorium in Memphis after introducing opening act Yolanda Adams, landing in the orchestra pit and sustaining head injuries. After a hospital stay brightened by "tens of thousands of postcards and phone calls from well-wishers," as Jet reported, Franklin convalesced and resumed his "Tour of Life." His experience, he told Steve Jones of USA Today, deepened his appreciation for his wife. "I started looking at her differently and started holding her hand differently," he related. "It was like I was falling in love all over again." Franklin's desire to attend gospel's Stellar Awards was so strong, his wife recalled, was strong even during the thick of his recovery. "When he was in the hospital he was telling us he was going," she recalled to Jones. "And we kept telling him, 'You're not going anywhere.' But he was like, 'Yes I am. Yes I am.' So finally, when the doctors said it would be OK, we said all right."

Franklin's appearance at the Stellar Awardsa mere month after his fallwas something of a valedictory. Billboard 's Lisa Collins reported that the singer "was the night's big winner, thrilling the crowd with a performance and testimony that brought the crowd to its feet." Though he took home five awards, including artist of the year, Franklin expressed a larger goal to Collins. "I wanted to make a fool out of the devil," he said. "You're not going to try to take my life and think I'm not going to praise God. I'm a living testimony."

Nearly a decade later, Franklin continued his mission. His music had generated an even bigger buzz in the music industry. Franklin made gospel music cool, opening the doors of churches to share their music over the airwaves and on television. He combined gospel with R&B, pop, rock, hip-hop, and even African and Latin music. Franklin was credited by his peers as helping to make gospel music into a multi-million dollar industry. VH1 offered viewers several concert shows in the early 2000s, and mainstream musicianssuch as Bono, Mary J. Blige, and R. Kellypartnered with Franklin in the studio. Franklin was hailed as a "visionary" of gospel music, and he knew all that label implied, telling CNN that gospel music's new popularity was "an opportunity to reach more people with the messageespecially a generation that isn't into organized religion, God, the Jesus thing."

Selected discography

Kirk Franklin and the Family, Gospo-Centric, 1993.

Christmas, Gospo-Centric, 1995.

Whatcha Lookin' 4, Gospo-Centric, 1996.

God's Property, Gospo-Centric, 1997.

Nu Nation Project, Gospo-Centric, 1998.

One Nation Crew, Gospo-Centric, 2000.

The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin, Gospo-Centric, 2002.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, December 28, 1996, p. 16; February 15, 1997, p. 38.

CCM, August 1996.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram, June 6, 1996.

Gannett News Service, June 21, 1996.

Jet, November 25, 1996, p. 33.

Los Angeles Times, July 7, 1996, p. 7.

Los Angeles Sentinel, November 21, 1996.

Michigan Chronicle, November 7, 1995.

Philadelphia Tribune, May 9, 1995.

Tennessee Tribune, December 4, 1996.

Texas Monthly, 1996.

Time, January 22, 1996.

Tri-State Defender, November 29, 1995.

USA Today, October 17, 1996; December 10, 1996; December 11, 1996.

Washington Afro-American, February 18, 1995.

On-line

"Franklin Pushes New Gospel Boundaries with 'Nu Nation Project,'" CNN, http://archives.cnn.com/2000/SHOWBIZ/Music/01/31/wb.kirk.franklin/ (accessed January 20, 2005).

"Kirk Franklin," Nu Nation, www.nunation.com (accessed January 20, 2005).

"New Gospel Reaching Out to Next Generation," CNN, www.cnn.com/SHOWBIZ/Music/9901/07/franklin.gospel/ (accessed January 20, 2005).

Simon Glickman and

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Franklin, Kirk

Kirk Franklin

Gospel singer

For the Record

Joins Gospel-Centric

Holy Dope Dealer

Selected discography

Sources

Gospel singer Kirk Franklin combines hip hop rhythms with overtly religious messages and has found massive crossover success in both Christian and pop music in America. Franklin and his back-up group the Family scored a hit in 1993 with Song We Singa rare crossover success. This rather impressive feat was overshadowed four years later by the song Stomp, a song recorded with the group Gods Property and featuring a sample from One Nation Under a Groove. Stomp stormed up the charts and became the first gospel video to air in heavy rotation on MTV (Music Television). Franklins appeal lay in the fact that he rather adeptly blends urban rhythms with his religious rhetoric, producing a savvy contemporary Christian mix aimed at members of the hip hop nation. John Morthland of Texas Monthly said that the lean goateed Franklin is able to score with hard gospel largely because he has the qualities other gospel stars lack: charisma, sex appeal, stage presence, ambition, business savvy, and street credibility.

It was not always this easy for Franklin. Born out of wedlock to teenage parents who never married nor lived together, he had sporadic contact with his parents while he was growing up. When he was three, Franklins mother put him up for adoption at a Fort Worth church. His great-aunt Gertrude Franklin, who was then in her mid 60s, took him in and eventually adopted him, insisting that he get involved in her church and in its youth activities, especially the choir. Growing up in the church under his great-aunts watchful eye gave Franklin the drive to excel in the choir. By the age of seven, his innate talent had earned him the opportunity to pursue a gospel music recording contract. His great-aunt expressly forbade this, citing Franklins extremely young age. A mere four years later, Franklin had attained the rank of minister of music at the Mt. Rose Baptist Church. In this position, he was responsible for all of the music for all of the choral groups at the church.

While was growing up, the choir and its attendant lifestyle were still more of a sideline to Franklin than his lifes vocation. Commenting on this to Morthland, Franklin said; I was always a moody child. In the house, it was just me and an older woman. When I got around my peers, I just went buck wild, because I wanted to be a kid, you know? Hedonism filled Franklins days when he was not in church. His rebellious antics included fighting, hanging around with gang members, hanging out at pool halls, causing trouble at school, fighting, and smoking marijuana.

When he was 16, Franklins friend, 17-year-old Eric Pounds, was killed when his parents gun fell from thetop of the closet and accidentally discharged. Devastated, Franklin

For the Record

Born c. 1970, in Fort Worth, TX; married c. 1996; children: Kerrion, son.

Began career performing with the Dallas-Fort Worth Mass Choir; performed on Look How Far Weve Come on Savoy, 1991; performed on Another Chance on Savoy, 1993; left to pursue a solo career; signed with Gospo-Centric and released Kirk Franklin and the Family;, 1993; released Kirk Franklin and the Family Christmas, 1995; released Whatcha Lookin 4, 1996; contributed to Dont Be a Menace film soundtrack, 1996; contributed to Special Gift, 1996; contributed to Soul Train Christmas Starfest, 1997; contributed to Get on the Bus film soundtrack, 1997; Gods Property from Kirk Franklins Nu Nation, 1997.

Awards: Gospel Music Award for Song of the Year, 1993; Gospel Music Award for Best New Artist, 1993; Platinum certification for Kirk Franklin and the Family, 1993.

Addresses: Record company B-rite Music, 417 East Regent St., Englewood, CA, 90301.

sought solace from the church, reading the Bible, and getting more involved in music. The following year, Franklins faith was tested again when he got his girlfriend pregnant. Franklin told Allison Samuels of Newsweek: those two things changed my life and got me in touch with the Lord and the Lords music. He added to Morthland that what I had done [getting his girlfriend pregnant out of wedlock] was wrong, but God forgave me, so I was able to forgive myself. Franklins girlfriend gave birth to a son named Kerrion. She raised him by herself until early 1996. It was then that Franklin decided to do for his son what was never done for him. I didnt want my son raised like I was. I wanted him to know his father, he explained to Morthland.

Joins Gospel-Centric

At 19, Franklin met Milton Biggham, executive director of Savoy Records, the leading label in gospel music. Biggham persuaded him to join his newly established Dallas-Fort Worth Mass Choir. The Dallas-Fort Worth Mass Choir released two albums on Savoy with Franklin, 1991s Look How Far Weve Come and Another Chance in 1993. Biggham, who was Franklins mentor in the industry, offered him a solo recording contract with Savoy. After much thought, Franklin politely declined feeling that on the Savoy label he would only be a small fish in a big pond. Not long after this, Franklin was contacted by Vicky Latallaide who had recently established the Los Angeles based Gospo-Centric label. After days of prayerful deliberation, he signed up with Gospo-Centric.

The breakthrough success of Kirk Franklin and the Family in 1993 exceeded the expectations of both Gospo-Centric and Franklin. The album, which teamed Franklin up with his back-up group, the Family, contained the hit inspirational track, Why We Sing, which not only topped the gospel music charts but managed to break out of the gospel ghetto and attract serious attention and air play on rhythm and blues (R&B) stations as well. Latallaide told Billboard s Phyllis Stark that we didnt know if they [R&B stations] would pick it up; we just wanted to make them aware of it because it was doing so well in gospel [the records mainstream success] kind of caught us off guard[adding nonetheless that the success of Why We Sing ] was something we had quietly prayed for. Gina Deeming, Gospo-Centrics business affairs manager, further elaborated on the matter to Stark adding that we basically called it an act of God. Its anointed and its Gods record, and we just try to take care of it.

Numerous program directors from R&B and urban music stations across America mentioned that the positive uplifting message of Why We Sing hit a nerve with R&B and urban music listeners. It was such a contrast to the graphically profane and sexually explicit lyrical content of a lot of the current urban music. Franklin explained his appeal to Samuels saying, Black youth are looking for spirituality and a better way to live. Im doing what it takes to get the attention of my generation. Kids are killing their parents. Theyre lost. Someone has to bring them back.

Franklins hard work paid off as Why We Sing won the Gospel Music Song of the Year Award in 1993 and he and his band took home the award for the years Best New Artist as well. Accolades and recognition did not stop there. The album, Kirk Franklin and the Family, became the first gospel album to go platinum in America. The sales were fueled, in no small part, by the success of Why We Sing on the Contemporary Christian, gospel, R&B, and pop charts.

The 1995 Christmas release, Kirk Franklin and the Family Christmas, was also popular and the release of WhatchaLooking 4, debuted at number 23 on the pop albums chart in 1996. Also that year, Franklin contributed tracks to the Special Gift Christmas compilation, the Soul Train Christmas Starfest, and to the soundtrack for the film Dont be a Menace.

Holy Dope Dealer

Franklins previous work served as a prelude to the phenomenally unprecedented success of his 1997 album, Gods Property from Kirk Franklins Nu Nation as the album went gold, selling half a million copies in its first month of release. It topped not only the gospel charts but the R&B charts as well and even managed to make it to number three on the pop charts. The albums success was driven by the smash hit Stomp, which sampled George Clintons funky One Nation Under a Groove and featured a rap from Cheryl James, also known as Salt, from Salt n Pepa. Franklin first met Gods Property at a gospel concert where the Dallas-Fort Worth Mass Choir and the Family were performing on the same bill. Franklin invited Gods Property to sing on Whatcha Lookin 4 and he then get a song on the soundtrack for Spike Lees 1997 film Get on the Bus.

Although never released as a single, Stomp became the first gospel song to make it into heavy rotation on MTV. Stomp also managed to seduce young people who had strayed from the church with its propulsive beats, rhythmic clapping and intoxicating chorus. Defending his use of hip hop to promote the word of God, Franklin told U.S. News & World Report writer, Thom Geier, theres nothing sinful about the beat. When Ive got their attention, I hit them with the holy dope. Im a holy dope dealer. Linda Searight, the music teacher who formed Gods Property in Dallas in 1992 concurred with Franklin and told Morthland, going into nightclubs, thats just God comin through, where ever He wants to come through. The nature of what were doing is outreach. And that means you have to reach out to bring in.

Selected discography

(With Dallas-Fort Worth Mass Choir) Look How Far Weve Come, Savoy, 1991.

(With Dallas-Fort Worth Mass Choir) Another Chance, Savoy, 1993.

Kirk Franklin and the Family (includes Why We Sing), Brite, 1993.

Kirk Franklin and the Family Christmas, B-rite, 1995.

Whatcha Lookin 4, B-rite, 1996.

(Contributor) Dont be a Menace, Island, 1996.

(Contributor) Special Gift, Island, 1996.

(Contributor) Soul Train Christmas Starfest, Epic, 1997.

(Contributor) Get on the Bus, Interscope, 1997.

Gods Property from Kirk Franklins Nu Nation (includes Stomp), B-rite, 1997.

Sources

Billboard, December 11, 1993; December 3, 1994.

Jet, December 25, 1995.

Newsweek, September 1, 1997.

Texas Monthly, September, 1996; September, 1997.

U.S. News & World Report, July 7, 1997.

Mary Alice Adams

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Franklin, Kirk

KIRK FRANKLIN

Born: Fort Worth, Texas, 23 January 1970

Genre: Gospel, R&B

Best-selling album since 1990: Nu Nation Project (1998)

Hit songs since 1990: "Why We Sing," "Lean on Me"


During the 1990s religious gospel music found increased acceptance within mainstream popular culture, a change spurred largely by the rise of Kirk Franklin. With the possible exception of singer Yolanda Adams, no young gospel artist in the 1990s could match Franklin's degree of commercial success. Franklin updated gospel music by incorporating flashy secular styles such as hip-hop and modern R&B. At the same time, he honored the gospel of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960syears known as "the Golden Age of Gospel"through collaborations with renowned older artists such as Shirley Caesar. Although his attempts at modernization sometimes drew fire from those within the gospel community, Franklin proved that spiritual music could appeal to younger listeners while retaining its resonance and zest.

Abandoned by teenaged parents as a young child, Franklin was raised by his Aunt Gertrude. A devoutly religious woman, she encouraged Franklin's musical abilities within and outside of the Baptist church, at one point collecting aluminum cans so that he could take piano lessons. Franklin's prodigious musical skills were apparent when he began directing the choir at Mt. Rose Baptist Church near Dallas, Texas, at the age of eleven. In his teens he went through a rebellious period, getting expelled from school due to fighting and other behavioral problems. After a friend was shot and killed Franklin decided to reform by returning to the church. By age twenty-two he had assembled his own group, a seventeen-member choir he called "the Family."

Kirk's debut album, Kirk Franklin & the Family (1993), was a huge success, spending 100 weeks on the gospel charts and crossing over to become an R&B hit as well. Building on gospel's choir tradition, which achieved prominence in the 1960s with the work of visionary performers such as the late James Cleveland, Franklin arranges the songs using multiple voices singing in unison. The album's biggest hit, "Why We Sing," is structured upon this approach, with voices soaring together in an ode to the emotional release of vocalizing. The downside of the 1960s and 1970s choir movement in gospel, which largely supplanted the popularity of smaller vocal quartets, was that individual voices often got lost in the wash of sound. Franklin anticipates this problem by pulling voices out of the choir for extended solos. "Silver and Gold" and "Call on the Lord," in particular, boast strong female leads that capture the fire and passion of the finest gospel music. Critics note Franklin himself is merely an average singer, but, like Cleveland, he uses his voice to good advantage, exhorting his soloists with the frequently interjected, "Hallelujah" and "C'mon." Several of the tracks spotlight the tough, heavy beats of 1990s hip-hop. Franklin's passion and commitmentqualities inherent within the divine purpose of gospelgive the album a vitality often lacking in the work of his secular hip-hop contemporaries.

Continuing to broaden the appeal of his music, Franklin contracted stars such as hip-hop queen Mary J. Blige and rock singer Bono for his 1998 album, The Nu Nation Project. On the album's rousing hit single, which features cameos from Blige and Bono, Franklin opens with a spoken passage that addresses issues such as AIDS and homelessness. The sermon, delivered without heavy-handedness or judgment, underscores gospel's historic commitment to social causes such as civil rights. "Revolution" is a tough hip-hop collaboration with hot R&B producer Rodney Jerkins, while "Riverside" sports a heavy beat that recalls 1970s funk music. Addressing his critics within the gospel community, Franklin allows himself a rare moment of bitterness on "The Verdict." Conceived as a mock courtroom drama, the track besets Franklin with a list of spoken "charges." "Charge number two: making gospel music too secular." Franklin makes a more compelling case when he rebuffs critics through the power of his music, such as on the joyous "My Desire." Here, he proves that gospel can be universal in appeal without losing its message of salvation and redemption. As Franklin noted in a 2000 interview with television network CNN, "I preach Christ . . . in the spirit of love, not in a spirit of hate, for whoever wants to listenblack, white, Jew, or Gentile."

After three years away from the recording spotlight, Franklin returned with The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin in 2002. A rewarding blend of traditional and contemporary elements, the album contains a church-wrecking lead vocal by gospel legend Shirley Caesar on "Caught Up." A fiery belter possessing the showmanship of the flamboyant gospel tradition, Caesar breaks the song down and repeats the title in an improvised, exhortatory style known as "testifying." Franklin wisely keeps his own vocal on the track to a minimum, stepping back to let this great performer take control. The album, acknowledging the new while honoring the potency of what has come before, sums up Franklin's invigorating, respectful approach to gospel.

The first performer to successfully merge hip-hop with traditional religious music, Kirk Franklin deserves credit for making gospel accessible to a young audience. While his music often bears the slick surface of modern R&B, the emotion and feeling he imparts have more in common with the passionate gospel of the past. In his work Franklin honors the richness of his heritage while carving a path for gospel in the twenty-first century.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Kirk Franklin & the Family (Sparrow, 1993); Kirk Franklin & the Family Christmas (Interscope, 1995); Whatcha Lookin' 4 (GospoCentric, 1995); God's Property (BRite/Interscope, 1997); The Nu Nation Project (Interscope, 1998); The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin (GospoCentric, 2002).

WEBSITE:

www.nunation.com.

david freeland

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