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Category: site news

Holy Hip Hop: Chris Mack makes music with a message





By Keshia McEntire, originally published in the Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper

When a hip-hop artist hits the stage at a bar in a college town, the audience might be surprised to hear lyrics about faith, purpose and hope within catchy, danceable tunes. Muncie, Indiana based rapper Chris Mack is shattering stereotypes by bringing positive music to the masses.


“I love being able to perform places you wouldn’t expect me to be. I rap about my faith in Christ, and most people would expect me to be rapping at a church, but my goal is to reach people from all perspectives on life for the sake of understanding what they believe and getting to share what I believe through not only music, but conversation,” said Mack, a Ball State grad who says music has been in his blood from day one.

As a child, he would soak up the hip-hop and ’70s soul music that his father played on repeat. When his family purchased their first home on the south side of Indianapolis, he watched his father and grandfather convert its garage into a music studio so that his father could write and record his own tracks. As Mack got older, he took his father’s old beats and made original songs with them. Today, the emcee does shows everywhere, from community centers and churches to parties and bars.


“My sound has got an Atlanta feel to it, so it’s not typical trap or new wave hip-hop. I have a mantra, and it’s that I use music as a means of starting genuine conversations. I get to know people’s passions, values, struggles, fears and what they ultimately believe in,” said Mack. “Some labels I like are Humble Beast Records — they have artists like Propaganda, Jackie Hill-Perry and Beautiful Eulogy. They make great music that challenges people’s perspectives on life, specifically through speaking on social injustices and Christianity. I love Reach Records and Andy Mineo. I love how crafty Andre 3000 is, love the storytelling ability of J. Cole and Kendrick Lamar.”

As a student, Mack was involved in campus ministry through Cru, an interdenominational Christian organization for college and university students, and Impact, a similar organization targeted toward African-American students. In Muncie, he works with youth at the Boys and Girls Club and serves at a church that some of his friends planted in Muncie. By the end 2017, Mack hopes to be making music full time and performing outside of the Midwest. While living in Muncie, he wants to make sure that he continues to serve the local community and cultivate the connections he has made.

“I want people to enjoy the music and think about the meaning of life and what is it all about,” he said. “I want people to be driven to tears, to get excited and to think about who Christ is. I want people to see that I care about them more than I care about the music that I make. I really want to care for people. Music is a way to engage with people, but I’m a servant at heart.”

To listen to Chris Mack’s music, visit realchrismack.bandcamp.com or youtube.com/realchrismack.



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Holy Hip Hop: Religion Department Finds New Beat


The world of hip-hop with its melodic beats, profane language and sometimes violent imagery, seems far removed from the prayers, songs and practices that often accompany religion. The new honors course “Religion and Hip-Hop” aims to bridge the gap between these two worlds at California Lutheran University (www.CalLuteran.edu).


Designed and taught by Associate Professor of Religion Rahuldeep Gill, he said he is excited to update the class throughout the years to come.


“This class is a juxtaposition of two things that don’t really go together, but if you look closely, they go together in really interesting and informative ways,” Gill said. “Once I learn what students like throughout the semester, I will definitely be remixing this class for as long as they let me teach it.”


With 10 years of teaching experience at California Lutheran University, Gill said he is always looking to push his students to explore new areas of learning.


According to the Cal Lutheran course catalog, this course highlights the relationship between hip-hop and religion in three ways: “the religious streams within hip-hop culture, hip-hop culture as a meaning-making system that parallels the work of religions, and hip-hop culture as giving voice to global religious concerns beyond its original American urban contexts.”


Gill said hip-hop and religion are related through art, clothes and the way people talk- everyone associates with hip-hop. Gill said one of the main things hip-hop and religion have in common is how they both engage people’s bodies.


“Hip-hop is a culture and an experience, and in this course we will look at how hip-hop has been used by religion or religious people to spread the gospel and bring people together,” Gill said.


Gill said that the first hip-hop event was a party in a steamy, sweaty basement in the lower Bronx. The party grew and, eventually, people got more and more attached to it.


Gill has many goals for the students taking this course. He said, one, is for the students to see the course as a way to navigate their own reality.

Sophomore Maramawit Bereda said she took this class because she was curious about how religion and hip-hop could work together. Through the class, she said she has been able to understand hip-hop a little more like what exactly it is and why it has so much history.


“In this class, being able to see different races come together in a classroom to talk about rap is amazing. I’ve started to see that other people from different races relate to rap, and how it has affected everyone’s lives,” Bereda said.


As a practicing Christian, Bereda said she used to feel slightly guilty when she listened to rap music, but now she feels more courageous and happy to listen, because she has found a lot of things that resonate to her Christianity through the music.
Gill said that hip-hop today is so diverse and no one really knows how large it is.


“Hip- Hop illuminates the hypocrisies in society and illuminates the parts where life doesn’t seem to make sense, and it creates new meaning out of there,” Gill said.


Adina Nack, the new director of the University Honors Program, assisted Gill in starting this class.


“A course like Religion and Hip-hop exemplifies the goals of the University Honors Program, in that students are being challenged to engage across traditional academic disciplines in order to explore complex topics that resonate with contemporary spiritual, social and political issues,” Nack said.


She said her goal as the new director is to increase the variety of course offerings for honors electives so that students have unique opportunities to explore exciting academic questions and learn new skills.


“I foresee a course, such as Religion and Hip-Hop, inspiring students to think beyond their academic major and career goals as they focus on learning from professors who motivate them to examine new sources of knowledge, which can enrich their overall undergraduate experience,” Nack said.


Source: Luisa Virgen

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Support GospelCity.com


By admin, 2018-12-02

Dear GospelCity.com Family:

For the past 20 years, GospelCity.com has served as beacon of light in the community, with its #1 Goal, to spread the Gospel worldwide.  The services that GospelCity.com has provided via its new platform enable Artists, Ministries, Labels and Members to reach the masses at $0.00 24/7. No other platform has done this, asking nothing for return for so long and to date: GospelCity.com has never received a donation or even an offer of donation from any of its members but nevertheless GospelCity.com has stayed consistently online for the community serving millions of visitors as the #1 and largest indie Gospel music portal on the planet with over 4000 members.

I am writing today to ask each of you to consider donating to GospelCity.com any amount that you feel like (donation $1.00 or more is fine), as any amount is better than $0.00. These funds will be used for operating expenses (which run in thousands of dollars), and any excess funds will go to marketing and promotions for 2019 and beyond. 

To donate, please click the following link on GospelCity.com homepage (Donate); or click/copy/paste the link below in your web-browser and again no donation is too small and all donations will be greatly appreciated.

Donate Paypal Link: https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=Y22Q5N5N8TBX4&source=url

or go Gospelcity.com homepage and click Donate button on homepage.

All donors will gain 'Featured' Artists Status on the home-page of the site as well as e-blasts and be designated as 'Platinum' in a Press Release and Article posted on site (featuring Artist, Member, Label, Ministry) and your profile will continue to have unlimited access, ability to sell your music online, blogs, video, etc., etc. These same features on any other site would run anywhere from $50 to $100 per year, but presently on GospelCity.com, the fee is $0.00.

Thank you for your consideration. 

Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas,

Richard Cox, General Manager

GospelCity.com

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Are You Gift Wrapped For Jesus?


By admin, 2018-11-29

Are You Gift Wrapped For Jesus?

by Richard A. Cox, Jr  Author of I, We, Us: A Journey of Personal Growth and Development

 

 My wife and I were walking through the mall looking for Christmas gifts as I observed the crowd of shoppers. Everyone was so busy and excited about purchasing gifts for family and friends. It made me think for a moment about what is the gift I’m giving to Jesus?  

 

I thought about the greatest gift I can give to Jesus is my life.   Jesus wants a totally surrendered life.  You will find in Romans 12:1 (AMP) where it states  I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.”   God wants daily access to us to be used as His instruments on earth to accomplish His work.  When we give our lives to God we are allowing Him total access 24/7 to our minds, bodies, and souls to be used as He sees fit.  

 

Jesus purpose in being born was to place us in right fellowship with God again after the fall of Adam. Jesus is the gift, not of something external to God, but the gift of God’s owns self, the divine truth told in a human life.  Looking at John 1:14 (KJV) we find , “… and the Word became flesh and dwelt upon us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.” God wrapped Himself in flesh to come to earth. He became the ultimate living sacrifice as the Lamb of God to die for the remission of our sins.  He gave us His greatest gift of His only begotten son. (John 3:14(KJV) “for God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son that whosoever would believe on Him will not perish but have everlasting life.”)  

 

I would like to ask if you are you gift wrapped for Jesus this year?   Do you wear the garment of praise when you enter the House of the Lord?   Do you wear the armor of God outside of the church to protect you against the wiles of the devil? Just mediate on your answers for a moment.

 

Here are some of the ways we can wrap ourselves as a gift for Jesus:

 

   1.    Truth - God has wrapped us in the truth of His Word.  In 3 John 4 (KJV) it says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”   

  2.    Praise - God has wrapped us in the garment of praise to give Him Glory and Honor all the days of our lives.  Isaiah 61:3 (KJV) tell us, “to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion…the Garment of Praise for the spirit of heaviness.”

  3.    Protection – God has wrapped us with His armor of protection. Ephesians 6:11 (KJV) declare us to, “put on the whole armor of God so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

We can bring a Christian perspective of the true meaning of Christmas in our homes and not just at church.   Here are some actions that can indicate how our hearts are wrapped as a gift at Christmas by:

   1.    Discussing the birth of Jesus and explaining why we celebrate Christmas.  

   2.    Giving meaning to our actions for decorating our homes and giving gifts.

   3.    Picking religious Christmas cards or E-cards that will minister to our family and friends

   4.    Looking for opportunities in the community to give our time to volunteer.

   5.    Making time to watch Christmas television programs with the family.

   6.    Playing Christmas CDs in our home to create an atmosphere of the holidays.

 

Jesus welcomes our little gifts and gestures because he recognizes them as signs that His joy has touched us.  Jesus wants YOU! It is not something that is tangible but intangible. When we received Jesus in our hearts, we received God’s greatest gift that keeps giving and giving and giving all year. 

We should stay gift wrapped for Jesus to be used anytime and anywhere patiently waiting for Him to unwrap us for His service.  Let Jesus unwrap your talent, creativity, and vision for His Glory.  Today, decide if you are not a Christian to give yourself as a gift to Jesus this Christmas. If you are a Christian keep yourself wrapped as a gift for Jesus to use.

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Brotha Dre (feat. Kingdom Chelzz) Releases Holy Hip Hop/Street Gospel Anthem titled: Chosen

 

November 9, 2018 - Atlanta/Nashville - Powerful Street Minister of The Gospel ("Brotha Dre"), powered by 3HMobile, Capitol Christian Music Group (CCMG), a division of Capitol Music Group and wholly-owned subsidiary of Universal Music Group, released today a hot new Holy Hip Hop/Street Gospel Anthem track titled: Chosen, with the catchy hook 'What It's Like To Be Chosen'.  This song is a must have for any music collection and can be related to by anyone who has experienced and truly felt the Power of GOD work in their life.

 

Brotha Dre Music Releases Powered by CCMG and 3HMobile (to access, on your favorite listening device, please click/copy/paste music links listed below):

 1.  Chosen By Brotha Dre (feat. Kingdom Chelzz) (Available Digital Stores Now Worldwide at):

https://amen-gospel.lnk.to/iGm4JWE  

2.  Black Sheep by Brotha Dre (Available Digital Stores Now Worldwide at):

https://amen-gospel.lnk.to/GPvgaWE

 

About 3HMobile: 3HMobile specializes in inspirational social media, music and entertainment, leveraging a proprietary digital member subscriber network of aficionados of street ministry, radio and internet platforms, growing virally (via word-of-mouth) at a rapid rate  For more information on rising independent Ministers of the Gospel visit: http://www.3HMobile.com

 

About Capitol Christian Music Group Capitol Christian Music Group (CCMG) is the world's leading Christian Music company and market leader in recorded music and music publishing. Capitol Christian Music Group operates several divisions, including CCMG Label Group (Sparrow Records, ForeFront Records, sixstepsrecords, Hillsong, Jesus Culture), Motown Gospel and CCMG Publishing (including Brentwood-Benson Music Publications). CCMG owned labels are home to artists Chris Tomlin, Amy Grant, TobyMac, Tasha Cobbs, Jeremy Camp, Hillsong United, Matt Redman, Mandisa, Tye Tribbett, Crowder, Passion Band, Karl Jobe and many others. Capitol CMG Publishing, in addition to publishing most of the CCMG labels' premier artist/writers, represents many of the leading writers in Christian/Gospel including Ben Glover, David Garcia, Kirk Franklin, Mark Hall, Brenton Brown and many more. Key Distribution partners include The Gaither Music Group, Centricity Records, Marantha Music, InPop Records, Worthy Book Publishing and Cinedigm Entertainment. Led by Chairman & CEO Peter York and a strong executive team of long-time Christian and Gospel music veterans, Capitol Christian Music Group is characterized by a passionate commitment to their artists, songwriters, customers, business partners, and one another, as well as a strong spirit of community service.  CCMG is a division of Capitol Music Group (CMG), led by Chairman and CEO Steve Barnett, which is a wholly owned division within Universal Music Group (UMG), the global music leader with strong market positions in recorded music, music publishing, and merchandising.

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October 24, 2018 - Atlanta/Nashville - Powerful Street Minister of The Gospel ("Brotha Dre"), powered by 3HMobile, Capitol Christian Music Group (CCMG), a division of Capitol Music Group and wholly-owned subsidiary of Universal Music Group, continues to gain momentum in 2018 with a pipeline of Hit Music Releases, with more on the way.

Brotha Dre Music Releases Powered by CCMG and 3HMobile (to access, on your favorite listening device, please click/copy/paste music links listed below):

1. Losing My Mind (Available Digital Stores Worldwide at):

https://amen-gospel.lnk.to/NgDOGWE

2. God vs Man (Available Digital Stores Worldwide at):

https://amen-gospel.lnk.to/GWulgWE

3. L4DK (Available Digital Stores Worldwide at) :

https://amen-gospel.lnk.to/qh8X6WE

4. Pray (Available Digital Stores Worldwide at):

https://amen-gospel.lnk.to/3MheSWE

5. Worthy (Available Digital Stores Worldwide at):

https://amen-gospel.lnk.to/VZ-BNWE

6. Whippin (Available Digital Stores Worldwide at):

https://amen-gospel.lnk.to/NaFFeWE

Upcoming Music Releases by Brotha Dre:
1. Chosen – Scheduled for 11/9

2. Black Sheep – Scheduled for 11/9

About 3HMobile: 3HMobile specializes in inspirational social media, music and entertainment, leveraging a proprietary digital member subscriber network of aficionados of street ministry, radio and internet platforms, growing virally (via word-of-mouth) at a rapid rate For more information on rising independent Ministers of the Gospel visit: http://www.3HMobile.com

About Capitol Christian Music Group Capitol Christian Music Group (CCMG) is the world's leading Christian Music company and market leader in recorded music and music publishing. Capitol Christian Music Group operates several divisions, including CCMG Label Group (Sparrow Records, ForeFront Records, sixstepsrecords, Hillsong, Jesus Culture), Motown Gospel and CCMG Publishing (including Brentwood-Benson Music Publications). CCMG owned labels are home to artists Chris Tomlin, Amy Grant, TobyMac, Tasha Cobbs, Jeremy Camp, Hillsong United, Matt Redman, Mandisa, Tye Tribbett, Crowder, Passion Band, Karl Jobe and many others. Capitol CMG Publishing, in addition to publishing most of the CCMG labels' premier artist/writers, represents many of the leading writers in Christian/Gospel including Ben Glover, David Garcia, Kirk Franklin, Mark Hall, Brenton Brown and many more. Key Distribution partners include The Gaither Music Group, Centricity Records, Marantha Music, InPop Records, Worthy Book Publishing and Cinedigm Entertainment. Led by Chairman & CEO Peter York and a strong executive team of long-time Christian and Gospel music veterans, Capitol Christian Music Group is characterized by a passionate commitment to their artists, songwriters, customers, business partners, and one another, as well as a strong spirit of community service. CCMG is a division of Capitol Music Group (CMG), led by Chairman and CEO Steve Barnett, which is a wholly owned division within Universal Music Group (UMG), the global music leader with strong market positions in recorded music, music publishing, and merchandising.

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Apple CEO Tim Cook warns your data is 'being weaponized' against you



By Brittany De Lea Published October 24, 2018TechnologyFOXBusiness





Apple CEO Tim Cook is calling for the U.S. and countries around the world to enhance their privacy protections for consumers, warning that failing to do so could prove destructive.

“Today [the private information] trade has exploded into a data industrial complex. Our own information, from the everyday to the deeply personal, is being weaponized against us with military efficiency,” Cook said at a conference in Brussels on data privacy Wednesday.

While lauding countries such as those in the European Union for implementing stricter privacy regulation throughout recent years – including the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – Cook specifically called out the U.S. for not doing enough. He said Apple supports the implementation of comprehensive federal privacy laws across the globe that minimize data collection, let users know what data is being collected, allow users to access that data and keep all of their information secure.

Cook went on to say that opposing privacy regulation “isn’t just wrong, it is destructive.”

As companies collect more and more data, he warns, businesses may have a fuller profile of an individual than the individual even has of herself.

“We shouldn’t sugarcoat the consequences. This is surveillance,” he said. “This should make us very uncomfortable. It should unsettle us.”

This year, technology companies have come under scrutiny for failing to safeguard users. Earlier this year, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey were called to testify on Capitol Hill regarding ways they planned to secure their platforms against rogue actors attempting to unduly influence users – particularly ahead of the midterm elections. It was revealed that a collection of Russian hackers gained access to Facebook’s platforms in an attempt to interfere in the U.S. presidential election.

Further, more than 80 million Facebook users were notified earlier this year that their data was wrongly accessed by Cambridge Analytica.

While Cook did not mention any of his Silicon Valley rivals by name, he noted many in the tech world would say stricter privacy regulation would prevent businesses from reaching their true potential.

In California, lawmakers are looking to advance data regulations similar to the GDPR in the European Union by 2020. The GDPR is an effort to transfer more control over personal data, like addresses and phone numbers, from large companies back to individuals, affecting how companies obtain, use, store and secure data.

Executives from Google and Facebook were set to address the same conference in Brussels later on Wednesday. When contacted by FOX Business, Google pointed to a blog post on privacy published last month.

Facebook Chief Privacy Officer Erin Egan said at the conference she would also support legislation similar to the GDPR, as reported by The FInancial Times. A spokesperson for the company reiterated Egan's sentiments that she supports "strong and effective privacy legislation."


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Aretha Franklin’s gospel classic—and the still-unreleased documentary about it—are a skeleton key to our connection to her





“She can sing anything. ‘Three Blind Mice.’ Anything.”


The King of Gospel Music, Reverend James Cleveland, was riffing, the way only a preacher can, prepping the congregation for the Queen of Soul, Ms. Aretha Franklin. This was January 13, 1972, in the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles. And while everyone in the room was familiar with Aretha Franklin, Reverend Cleveland knew that not everyone had heard her sing gospel or witnessed her sing in a church. “You’re in tonight for a great thrill,” Cleveland said to the first-timers.


The house was packed because Aretha was not only recording the album that would become Amazing Grace, the highest-selling album of her career and the highest-selling live gospel album of all time, but it was also being filmed by director Sydney Pollack, for what is a still-unreleased concert documentary.

Mick Jagger was there. Gospel legend Clara Ward was there. So was Reverend Cleveland’s choir, the Southern California Community Choir. And after Cleveland sang one number with his choir, Aretha, in her flowy gown and perfect revolutionary afro, entered the chapel.

On that night, and the night that followed, Aretha Franklin gave what may be the greatest sustained vocal performance, ever.

At this point in her career, Aretha was already a legend. A year before Amazing Grace, she’d released a greatest-hits album and won her fourth of eight consecutive Grammys for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. One could argue that while she had a great deal more to achieve, she didn’t have much more to prove. And maybe to an average superstar this would be true, but we’re talking Aretha Franklin, lest we forget. And on those two days, she reminded everyone that while she may have had contemporaries, she had no peers. Sure, Aretha was not the first to grow up in the church and take a booming voice to the mainstream, gaining worldwide fame from secular music. But on these two days, she came back to the black church. And it wasn’t just a sweet reminder that she hadn’t lost a step. She was here for her playground respect, ready to send a warning shot to any that had doubted her—she had gotten stronger.

Amazing Grace is Aretha, at her most raw and stripped down, resulting in Aretha at her most powerful.

“I never left the church; the church goes with me,” Aretha said, in one of the few public clips from the unreleased documentary. She said that, after two minutes of footage of Aretha, singing “Amazing Grace.”

The full version of the song on the 1972 album recording is more than 10 minutes long. And for more than 10 minutes, she takes you through a roller-coaster of human emotion. She makes you cry, she makes you smile, she makes you want to jump up and holler at her, as she hollers at God. In moments when it sounds as though the spirit has fully taken over, she’s somehow vocally more in control of every note than she typically is. She’s not just hitting runs, she’s picking notes out of thin air and attacking them with the precision of a sniper. The room’s call-and-response is at the album’s height during this song, emotional and spiritual kindling to the fire that is her instrument.

Plenty of great songs and timeless performers give you chills. This, however, is something else. It’s more than in your bones; it’s cellular.

And this is just one song. Regardless of each musical number’s original meaning, for these two days Aretha made every word, note, and breath sound sanctified. The first two songs she sang on the first day were “Wholy Holy,” a Marvin Gaye song from What’s Going On and “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” originally a Rodgers and Hammerstein show tune from Carousel. Later, with the help of the choir, she started singing the gospel standard “Precious Lord, Take My Hand” and then blended it into “You’ve Got a Friend.”

Carole King wasn’t talking about Jesus. But Aretha was. And just like that, “You’ve Got a Friend” was a gospel song. Throughout Amazing Grace she vacillated between hymns, mid-tempo numbers like “Climbing Higher Mountains,” a quasi-sermon on “Mary, Don’t You Weep,” and up-tempo numbers like “Old Landmark” and “How I Got Over” that caused dancing to spill out from the pews and into the aisles.

Technically, Amazing Grace is art at its highest form, the work of a bona fide musical genius at her peak. And for me, somehow, that’s not even its most impressive (or important) attribute. For as long as I can remember hearing these songs—the album, a lifelong soundtrack to growing up around the black Baptist church—there’s been a moment, on each song, that Aretha does something that makes me believe in God.

More than any sermon, any text, or any life moment, it’s Aretha that keeps me a believer, in something. On Amazing Grace, the belief that Aretha exudes about her God is all the convincing I need that she’s right. And it’s not any specific word or phrase she says; it’s that she feels so much—it makes you want to go through it with her, and feel that, too.

Over the years, it was her voice on this album that provided a light. That assurance you need in your life, that things will eventually be OK. When people in my life passed away, the first thing I would do is turn on Amazing Grace. When dark moments of depression would take over, the light feeling extinguished, the first thing I’d do is turn on Amazing Grace. And when I’d come out on the other side, I’d go back to Aretha and turn it back on. Aretha and I, we were a team.

I never considered what I’d listen to should Aretha die. But even today, amidst all the sadness of her passing, it’s Aretha who is still there for me, reminding me that this, too, shall pass, that I’ll never walk alone, and that I’ll always have a friend.

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TOP GOSPEL ALBUMS



The week of











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2

WEEKS AT NO. 1



49

WEEKS ON CHART



Heart. Passion. Pursuit




Gains in performance






















2





Koryn Hawthorne Unstoppable Billboard Top Gospel Albums



Unstoppable











2

LAST WEEK



1

PEAK POSITION



3

WEEKS ON CHART







3




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Shana Wilson Williams Everlasting Billboard Top Gospel Albums



Everlasting

Shana Wilson Williams









Gains in performance







4




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Maurice Yancey & One Accord Sentiments Of My Heart Billboard Top Gospel Albums



Sentiments Of My Heart

Maurice Yancey & One Accord










23

LAST WEEK



4

PEAK POSITION



2

WEEKS ON CHART





Awards


[1] Greatest gainer this week


Gains in performance







5




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Various Artists WOW Gospel 2018 Billboard Top Gospel Albums



WOW Gospel 2018











4

LAST WEEK



1

PEAK POSITION



27

WEEKS ON CHART





Gains in performance







6





Travis Greene The Hill Billboard Top Gospel Albums









6

LAST WEEK



1

PEAK POSITION



144

WEEKS ON CHART





Gains in performance







7




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Marvin Sapp Playlist: The Very Best Of Marvin Sapp Billboard Top Gospel Albums



Playlist: The Very Best Of Marvin Sapp











5

LAST WEEK



3

PEAK POSITION



159

WEEKS ON CHART





Gains in performance











3

LAST WEEK



1

PEAK POSITION



21

WEEKS ON CHART







9




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Fred Hammond Best Of Fred Hammond Billboard Top Gospel Albums



Best Of Fred Hammond











8

LAST WEEK



8

PEAK POSITION



7

WEEKS ON CHART





Gains in performance







10




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Tasha Cobbs Grace (EP) Billboard Top Gospel Albums



Grace (EP)











12

LAST WEEK



1

PEAK POSITION



229

WEEKS ON CHART





Gains in performance










11




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Tasha Cobbs One Place: Live Billboard Top Gospel Albums



One Place: Live











13

LAST WEEK



1

PEAK POSITION



153

WEEKS ON CHART





Gains in performance







12




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Todd Dulaney Your Great Name Billboard Top Gospel Albums



Your Great Name











14

LAST WEEK



1

PEAK POSITION



28

WEEKS ON CHART





Gains in performance







13




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Snoop Dogg & Various Artists Snoop Dogg Presents: Bible Of Love Billboard Top Gospel Albums



Snoop Dogg Presents: Bible Of Love

Snoop Dogg & Various Artists










11

LAST WEEK



1

PEAK POSITION



20

WEEKS ON CHART







14




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Tamela Mann Best Days Billboard Top Gospel Albums



Best Days











24

LAST WEEK



1

PEAK POSITION



230

WEEKS ON CHART





Gains in performance







15




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Anthony Brown & group therAPy A Long Way From Sunday Billboard Top Gospel Albums



A Long Way From Sunday











22

LAST WEEK



1

PEAK POSITION



53

WEEKS ON CHART





Gains in performance







16




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Tamela Mann One Way Billboard Top Gospel Albums









19

LAST WEEK



1

PEAK POSITION



99

WEEKS ON CHART





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Tradition is losing out as different expressions of praise and worship overtake traditional gospel music and choirs

By Andre Kimo Stone Guess

 

Right now, the 51st Annual Convention of the Gospel Music Workshop of America is being held in Atlanta. The hot topic? The state of gospel music. A cross section of people from the gospel community — including pastors, ministers of music, artists and church musicians — will try to get a sense of the impact of gospel music on today’s culture from three perspectives: the music, the message and the musicians.

Looking at the balance of tradition versus innovation in the styles of recorded gospel music and music performed in church has led them to ask whether the underlying message of gospel has changed, and what is the impact of that on the culture.

Tradition vs. innovation

There has been a historic tension in the black church between the music and the musicians who it birthed. At different points in time, musicians were ostracized from the church for playing new styles of music that were deemed inappropriate. Often, these musicians picked themselves up from the proverbial curb of the church from which they were just kicked and took those new styles into the secular world.

Over time, these innovations were eventually accepted and invited back into the church, creating a pathway between the church and the secular music world and popular culture.

Steven Ford, a Grammy, Dove and Stellar award-winning musician, composer, arranger and producer, has worked with a who’s who list of gospel artists and has contributed to nearly 100 recording projects. During his tenure in the gospel industry, he has seen constant change.

“Gospel music is ever-changing. It’s always evolving. What I heard 10 years ago is different in the church now, but it’s still called gospel music. You can’t put it in a box,” he said.

In the continuum of gospel music that starts with the Negro spiritual and goes through a lineage that includes Thomas Dorsey, Roberta Martin, James Cleveland, Andrae Crouch, Edwin Hawkins and Kirk Franklin, is there a tradition of sound that needs to be codified and preserved for future generations or should the innovation just be allowed to move forward without any regard for a tradition?

Grammy and Stellar award-winning producer and artist Donald Lawrence sees himself as a part of a proud tradition of an unbroken line of gospel musicians who came before him while also finding inspiration from outside of gospel.

“From traditional to contemporary, you still could hear elements [of a tradition]. From contemporary to urban, you still could hear elements of where it came from,” he said. “I was inspired by [Andrae] Crouch and [Edwin] Hawkins. Crouch was inspired by [James] Cleveland and Hawkins was inspired by The Caravans, and they were inspired by people before them. And also, Hawkins was inspired by pop writers, and the same with me. I was inspired my musical theater writers and [also] by Luther [Vandross]. But when you start going a little more like rock-driven, it kind of erases that.”

The rock-driven aspect of gospel music that Lawrence is referring to is not rock ’n’ roll per se. What he is speaking of is the underlying chord structure that is contained in much of today’s gospel, particularly music from the praise and worship movement. The harmonies come out of chords that are rock-based, as opposed to the traditional blues-infused gospel tradition.

Praise and worship movement

Judith McAllister is often referred to as “The First Lady of Praise and Worship.” She has served for more than 17 years as worship leader at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles under the leadership of Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr. She is the church’s executive director of the music and worship department and in 2009 was appointed to the office of minister of music/president of the international music department.

Under the leadership of Blake, McAllister, along with Patrick Peterson, began the praise and worship movement at West Angeles in the late 1980s.

“At that time, we as African-Americans were not singing that type of music in our churches,” she said. “We were singing more of the spiritual and devotional songs and we needed to be ‘zapped’ by the spirit to dance, to lift our hands or to rejoice. But this [movement] was now more of an at-will or I will, as the Scripture says, kind of worship.”

The praise and worship movement has spread like wildfire throughout the black church over the past 30 years. One of the unintended consequences of the movement was a decline in traditional choirs in some churches in favor of smaller praise and worship teams.

Decline in choirs

Grammy, Dove and Stellar Award-winning composer, arranger and artist Richard Smallwood laments the decline of the traditional gospel choir in today’s gospel music. Smallwood sees the increase of smaller praise and worship teams as a more efficient and less cumbersome music ministry option for many churches.

“It’s easier to work with the smaller praise team configurations than it is to work with a choir, and much of the music that those type of ensembles are singing are a lot easier to teach and learn for the singers,” he said. “Working with a choir and teaching them the intricacies of the music is harder, but it is also more rewarding.”

Alyn E. Waller, senior pastor of the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia, is a trained musician who aspired to become a professional musician before heeding the call to ministry. The Stellar Award nominee regularly ministers through song with the Enon Tabernacle Mass Choir and as a soloist. He contrasts the music of a traditional gospel choir to that of smaller contemporary gospel groups of today.

“We’ve become almost monolithic in our expression musically,” Waller said. “Sometimes when you hear a traditional gospel choir from a black university come and do a concert where the first half is spirituals and the second half is contemporary gospel, you can hear how dumbed down the music has become, from four- or five-part harmonies to three or even a single line. The imagery that’s painted with the words is not as beautiful as it was, and the ties to Scripture [are not as strong]. There are some very famous songs now that are theologically horrendous.”

Innovation leads to imitation

Looking back over the past 30 years since the beginning of the praise and worship movement, McAllister senses another change coming in gospel music. “As it was then [in the late ’80s], so it is now. I think we have reached an impasse because everyone is doing the same thing,” she said. “I think there is coming a new sound, a new technique that everyone will now gravitate to. Everything is really starting to sound the same.”

Like McAllister and Waller, Lawrence also senses a similar stagnation in the music.

“To me, gospel music today has become a little monolithic; a lot of it is the same. This is the first time I have really seen this,” he said. “Gospel has always been about a diversity of brands or sounds. It’s never been one message, one sound. It was always one message with multiple sounds. Commerce has pushed a lot of the newer artists to be one message, one sound.”

This phenomenon isn’t unique to gospel music. James Poyser, a member of the hip-hop band The Roots, sees a similar trend in music in general. Poyser, a pastor’s kid, got his start playing in church and took that experience and branched out. He is now a fixture on the hip-hop and rhythm and blues scene. “Everything is becoming homogenized,” he said. “Everything is starting to sound the same. Everybody has the same [computer music] programs and are using the same sounds. They all communicate with each other, and because of the internet, everything is readily available. Gospel music is just following the trend of popular music.”

Diversity of music worship

While recorded gospel music may be facing a challenge of diversity of sound, some pastors are embracing the entire continuum of the black music tradition to reach their congregations.

Todd Townsend has been pastoring at the Resurrection Center in Wilmington, Delaware, for nearly 20 years. The church will celebrate its 126th anniversary this year. Townsend has a doctorate in family therapy and doctorate of education in educational leadership, and a few years ago he added a gospel rap album to his résumé.

“I always loved music, all forms of music. Poetry has always been important to me, but I never really thought to put the two together,” he said.

One day his minister of music asked him to sing a song. Because he doesn’t really sing, he reluctantly agreed, if the minister of music would agree to coach him. He actually never sang that song, but it led him to do some writing and put some poetry to beats. His musicians liked what he came up with and invited him into the studio, and seven months later he had his first album and a whole new set of passions.

This passion has opened up new doors and has made his church relevant to a whole new generation of worshippers.

“We keep all variables available because every generation is relevant. From our oldest elder who wants the hymns like Precious Lord, we have that. We have cafes where we will have a jazz vibe. And then for the young people who have an appetite for hip-hop, we also have that,” he said. “Our responsibility as an institution is our loyalty to the gospel message. We create those options for people. It’s a lot of fun and innovative, but it’s also risky. I received some critical feedback from rapping. After the first album came out, I had people tell me, ‘You got 20 years of experience and faithful service. You’re a solid preacher. Why do you want to throw all that away?’

“I processed that and decided to weather the storm. As I continued on the road and grew as an artist and my material got better, they saw that I am still the same guy that I always was. The critics began to turn, and now they say don’t stop. As a matter of fact, they say, why don’t you come to my church.”

One message, many sounds

While the styles of gospel music have evolved over the years, the thing that truly distinguishes it from other genres is the message.

Regardless of the style of music, most everyone agrees that in order for it to truly be considered gospel music, the message has to be clear, consistent and Christ-centered.

As a musician and a pastor, Waller understands the power of the message in gospel music.

“Gospel music has always helped us to be prophetic, meaning to critique the present ideology, speak truth to power and, where power has no clue, offer a more imaginable social future — which is hope,” he said. “Whether it has beats to it or no beats, the essence of gospel music is the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

In some instances, commercial forces have conspired to compromise the message of gospel music. In an effort to gain a wider audience, some artists have decided not only to go for a more homogenized sound but also to water down the message, making it unclear whether the song is truly about God.

Ford has seen this phenomenon at work firsthand.

“The gospel music industry has changed in order to promote sales. Will the artist be willing to make changes for sales?” he asked. “In other words, I’m going to change you from your style and your message to the current thing that is selling. If you do that, then to me, you’re selling out. You’re changing for the consumer. If you’re going to be true to gospel music and what is being sung in church on Sunday morning, then that message can’t change. That’s why we have people today saying, ‘I’m a little confused. Is that gospel or is that something else?’ ”

Even with the right words, the true impact of the music may be lost if there is a disconnect between the words of the song and the life being lived by the artist.

“Many have departed from the true tenets of what gospel music is. Gospel is the good news. To live what the good news says has been something that in my estimation has become increasingly scarce,” said McAllister. “If those who are playing, singing and ministering the music don’t have the power that makes the music come alive, then you will have wonderful ear candy but no impact on a generation.”

Musicians: the salt and the light

Jazz and R&B saxophonist Kirk Whalum has spent most of his career playing secular music. He’s played and toured with the likes of Whitney Houston and Vandross, but like many black musicians in popular music, he grew up playing in the church. His son plays bass for Kelly Clarkson, and his nephew plays saxophone with many R&B and pop artists, including D’Angelo and Beyoncé.

Whalum estimates that up to 90 percent of the black musicians playing secular music today came out of the church, and for the younger generations of church musicians like his son and nephew, he offers some sage advice.

“I challenge some of these kids who come out of the church to serve God out in the mainstream industry, but kind of be stealth [about it],” he said. “You don’t have to come straight out and say that I’m a Christian. All you are really called to do is to live a life for Christ that draws people to the cross and at the very least to cause people to be curious about you and wonder what it is about you that makes you tick.”

McAllister has a cadre of supremely talented musicians in her employ at West Angeles who perform with the latest sensations of pop, R&B and hip-hop. She has set a high bar of expectation for her musicians and church musicians in general.

“Church musicians have an obligation when they go out into the world to be salt and light,” she said. “Salt does not become effective until it gets into an area of decay, and light does not become effective unless it goes into darkness. I have no problem with collaborations [with secular artists] as long as you can go in and change the environment and not allow the environment to change you.”

Rev. John Ray Jr., minister of worship and arts at Light of the World Christian Church in Indianapolis, sees a troubling trend with gospel music and musicians.

“Some black church music and musicians have forgotten that Christians are called to walk a tightrope,” he said. “We are walking the thin line between being in this world and not of it. God’s standards are not those of this world, but we are called to make it so. When we engage the world, we are to represent Christ and his way, not the other way around. This is true for music as well.”

Ray believes that this capitulation to the world by gospel music and musicians is exemplified in Snoop Dogg’s recent release, Bible of Love. “It is emblematic of where we are when a secular rapper who firmly espouses the values of the world [both before and after the release of the record] can decide to record a gospel album and it becomes No. 1 on the gospel charts.”

Christian hip-hop or gospel rap?

Christian hip-hop or gospel rap has been around commercially since the early 1980s. As a subgenre, it has not received anywhere near the traction, acclaim or influence of traditional urban gospel music. One of the reasons is that hip-hop was not born of the church but owes its roots to the streets of the black inner city and as such is often associated with the negative aspects of those streets and neighborhoods.

Jamel “Jkeyz” Richardson, a songwriter and producer who is also a member of the music ministry at the Resurrection Center, says Christian hip-hop faces an uphill battle because of the inability of some churches and Christians to have an open mind.

“Because hip-hop has produced music and lyrics about death, drugs and destruction, it’s hard for some people to accept and hear good news coming from someone using the same music,” he said.

Richardson has worked with and produced many Christian hip-hop artists, including John Cook, Canton Jones, Iz-Real and S. Todd (Bishop Townsend). He believes that artists like these as well as artists like Lecrae, Andy Mineo and KB may be able to reach a generation for Christ more effectively than traditional gospel artists would.

Homecoming

 The Second Baptist Church of Washington, a historically black church that’s 160 years old, celebrates on the first Sunday after Barack Obama’s presidential election victory on Nov. 9, 2008. Choir members (from left) Mary Terrell, Grace Davis, Vernelle C. Hamit, Lena Bradley and Sharon Bradley belt out a tune during service.

The black church has had an extraordinary impact on American culture. So much of the music that the world has enjoyed over the past 75-plus years is a direct result of music and musicians who have come out of the church.

According to Ford, the world is reaping the benefits of the gifts of the black church.

“The church world doesn’t really realize how powerful they really are in terms of the arts [and culture],” he said. “When you talk about Bruno Mars, Jay-Z and so many others, I know their musical directors. They all come from the church. So whether we want to celebrate it or not, they are products of the church. And so the church has actually made the world successful because you have trusted what has come out of the church regardless of whether you agree with their philosophy or religion.”

Economic, social and technological factors have affected the way music is developed, marketed and consumed. Gospel music is not immune to those pressures, particularly in the gospel music industry. However, the black church as an institution has the power and the ability to profoundly affect the culture with the continuum of music and musicians that has given birth to going out into the world as “salt and light.”

Ford wants to make sure the music and musicians who go out into the world from the church find a way back home.

“Musicians and artists who start out in the church, they get their foundation. They get their chance to stand out, to perform, and then they go out and become ‘famous’ and financially secure,” he said. “For them to be able to complete the full circle, they need to be able to come back to the community and help the community. I feel in the church that should be the goal of what church musicians or church artists are doing. Whether or not everyone does it, that’s something different.”

A homecoming of sorts will help ensure that the pathway created between the church and the secular world continues to be a two-way street with most of the impact and change coming from the church.

What’s 🔥 Right Now

Waller recognizes the power of black music to do good and evil along that two-way street.

“There’s power in music. There’s power in the good news of Jesus Christ. There’s power in our type of music, meaning the tonalities that come out of the crash of African and European musicalities that is something that is very American, very special, very powerful, very appealing, and because of that we need to nurture it, use it to inspire.

“We need to recognize how powerful lyric is on top of that. When we get the right [or wrong] lyric on top of good music, it can inspire people to do good or do evil. [Much of the music of the world has a] lyric [that] lacks depth, insight and the prophetic, and so what we want to do is tie the two, because the right lyric with the right music will last forever.”

Andre Kimo Stone Guess is a writer and cultural critic from the Smoketown neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. He was VP and Producer for Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York and CEO of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Pittsburgh. He now runs GuessWorks, Inc. with his wife Cheryl.

By Andre Kimo Stone Guess

 

Right now, the 51st Annual Convention of the Gospel Music Workshop of America is being held in Atlanta. The hot topic? The state of gospel music. A cross section of people from the gospel community — including pastors, ministers of music, artists and church musicians — will try to get a sense of the impact of gospel music on today’s culture from three perspectives: the music, the message and the musicians.

Looking at the balance of tradition versus innovation in the styles of recorded gospel music and music performed in church has led them to ask whether the underlying message of gospel has changed, and what is the impact of that on the culture.

Tradition vs. innovation

There has been a historic tension in the black church between the music and the musicians who it birthed. At different points in time, musicians were ostracized from the church for playing new styles of music that were deemed inappropriate. Often, these musicians picked themselves up from the proverbial curb of the church from which they were just kicked and took those new styles into the secular world.

Over time, these innovations were eventually accepted and invited back into the church, creating a pathway between the church and the secular music world and popular culture.

Steven Ford, a Grammy, Dove and Stellar award-winning musician, composer, arranger and producer, has worked with a who’s who list of gospel artists and has contributed to nearly 100 recording projects. During his tenure in the gospel industry, he has seen constant change.

“Gospel music is ever-changing. It’s always evolving. What I heard 10 years ago is different in the church now, but it’s still called gospel music. You can’t put it in a box,” he said.

In the continuum of gospel music that starts with the Negro spiritual and goes through a lineage that includes Thomas Dorsey, Roberta Martin, James Cleveland, Andrae Crouch, Edwin Hawkins and Kirk Franklin, is there a tradition of sound that needs to be codified and preserved for future generations or should the innovation just be allowed to move forward without any regard for a tradition?

Grammy and Stellar award-winning producer and artist Donald Lawrence sees himself as a part of a proud tradition of an unbroken line of gospel musicians who came before him while also finding inspiration from outside of gospel.

“From traditional to contemporary, you still could hear elements [of a tradition]. From contemporary to urban, you still could hear elements of where it came from,” he said. “I was inspired by [Andrae] Crouch and [Edwin] Hawkins. Crouch was inspired by [James] Cleveland and Hawkins was inspired by The Caravans, and they were inspired by people before them. And also, Hawkins was inspired by pop writers, and the same with me. I was inspired my musical theater writers and [also] by Luther [Vandross]. But when you start going a little more like rock-driven, it kind of erases that.”

The rock-driven aspect of gospel music that Lawrence is referring to is not rock ’n’ roll per se. What he is speaking of is the underlying chord structure that is contained in much of today’s gospel, particularly music from the praise and worship movement. The harmonies come out of chords that are rock-based, as opposed to the traditional blues-infused gospel tradition.

Praise and worship movement

Judith McAllister is often referred to as “The First Lady of Praise and Worship.” She has served for more than 17 years as worship leader at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles under the leadership of Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr. She is the church’s executive director of the music and worship department and in 2009 was appointed to the office of minister of music/president of the international music department.

Under the leadership of Blake, McAllister, along with Patrick Peterson, began the praise and worship movement at West Angeles in the late 1980s.

“At that time, we as African-Americans were not singing that type of music in our churches,” she said. “We were singing more of the spiritual and devotional songs and we needed to be ‘zapped’ by the spirit to dance, to lift our hands or to rejoice. But this [movement] was now more of an at-will or I will, as the Scripture says, kind of worship.”

The praise and worship movement has spread like wildfire throughout the black church over the past 30 years. One of the unintended consequences of the movement was a decline in traditional choirs in some churches in favor of smaller praise and worship teams.

Decline in choirs

Grammy, Dove and Stellar Award-winning composer, arranger and artist Richard Smallwood laments the decline of the traditional gospel choir in today’s gospel music. Smallwood sees the increase of smaller praise and worship teams as a more efficient and less cumbersome music ministry option for many churches.

“It’s easier to work with the smaller praise team configurations than it is to work with a choir, and much of the music that those type of ensembles are singing are a lot easier to teach and learn for the singers,” he said. “Working with a choir and teaching them the intricacies of the music is harder, but it is also more rewarding.”

Alyn E. Waller, senior pastor of the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia, is a trained musician who aspired to become a professional musician before heeding the call to ministry. The Stellar Award nominee regularly ministers through song with the Enon Tabernacle Mass Choir and as a soloist. He contrasts the music of a traditional gospel choir to that of smaller contemporary gospel groups of today.

“We’ve become almost monolithic in our expression musically,” Waller said. “Sometimes when you hear a traditional gospel choir from a black university come and do a concert where the first half is spirituals and the second half is contemporary gospel, you can hear how dumbed down the music has become, from four- or five-part harmonies to three or even a single line. The imagery that’s painted with the words is not as beautiful as it was, and the ties to Scripture [are not as strong]. There are some very famous songs now that are theologically horrendous.”

Innovation leads to imitation

Looking back over the past 30 years since the beginning of the praise and worship movement, McAllister senses another change coming in gospel music. “As it was then [in the late ’80s], so it is now. I think we have reached an impasse because everyone is doing the same thing,” she said. “I think there is coming a new sound, a new technique that everyone will now gravitate to. Everything is really starting to sound the same.”

Like McAllister and Waller, Lawrence also senses a similar stagnation in the music.

“To me, gospel music today has become a little monolithic; a lot of it is the same. This is the first time I have really seen this,” he said. “Gospel has always been about a diversity of brands or sounds. It’s never been one message, one sound. It was always one message with multiple sounds. Commerce has pushed a lot of the newer artists to be one message, one sound.”

This phenomenon isn’t unique to gospel music. James Poyser, a member of the hip-hop band The Roots, sees a similar trend in music in general. Poyser, a pastor’s kid, got his start playing in church and took that experience and branched out. He is now a fixture on the hip-hop and rhythm and blues scene. “Everything is becoming homogenized,” he said. “Everything is starting to sound the same. Everybody has the same [computer music] programs and are using the same sounds. They all communicate with each other, and because of the internet, everything is readily available. Gospel music is just following the trend of popular music.”

Diversity of music worship

While recorded gospel music may be facing a challenge of diversity of sound, some pastors are embracing the entire continuum of the black music tradition to reach their congregations.

Todd Townsend has been pastoring at the Resurrection Center in Wilmington, Delaware, for nearly 20 years. The church will celebrate its 126th anniversary this year. Townsend has a doctorate in family therapy and doctorate of education in educational leadership, and a few years ago he added a gospel rap album to his résumé.

“I always loved music, all forms of music. Poetry has always been important to me, but I never really thought to put the two together,” he said.

One day his minister of music asked him to sing a song. Because he doesn’t really sing, he reluctantly agreed, if the minister of music would agree to coach him. He actually never sang that song, but it led him to do some writing and put some poetry to beats. His musicians liked what he came up with and invited him into the studio, and seven months later he had his first album and a whole new set of passions.

This passion has opened up new doors and has made his church relevant to a whole new generation of worshippers.

“We keep all variables available because every generation is relevant. From our oldest elder who wants the hymns like Precious Lord, we have that. We have cafes where we will have a jazz vibe. And then for the young people who have an appetite for hip-hop, we also have that,” he said. “Our responsibility as an institution is our loyalty to the gospel message. We create those options for people. It’s a lot of fun and innovative, but it’s also risky. I received some critical feedback from rapping. After the first album came out, I had people tell me, ‘You got 20 years of experience and faithful service. You’re a solid preacher. Why do you want to throw all that away?’

“I processed that and decided to weather the storm. As I continued on the road and grew as an artist and my material got better, they saw that I am still the same guy that I always was. The critics began to turn, and now they say don’t stop. As a matter of fact, they say, why don’t you come to my church.”

One message, many sounds

While the styles of gospel music have evolved over the years, the thing that truly distinguishes it from other genres is the message.

Regardless of the style of music, most everyone agrees that in order for it to truly be considered gospel music, the message has to be clear, consistent and Christ-centered.

As a musician and a pastor, Waller understands the power of the message in gospel music.

“Gospel music has always helped us to be prophetic, meaning to critique the present ideology, speak truth to power and, where power has no clue, offer a more imaginable social future — which is hope,” he said. “Whether it has beats to it or no beats, the essence of gospel music is the hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

In some instances, commercial forces have conspired to compromise the message of gospel music. In an effort to gain a wider audience, some artists have decided not only to go for a more homogenized sound but also to water down the message, making it unclear whether the song is truly about God.

Ford has seen this phenomenon at work firsthand.

“The gospel music industry has changed in order to promote sales. Will the artist be willing to make changes for sales?” he asked. “In other words, I’m going to change you from your style and your message to the current thing that is selling. If you do that, then to me, you’re selling out. You’re changing for the consumer. If you’re going to be true to gospel music and what is being sung in church on Sunday morning, then that message can’t change. That’s why we have people today saying, ‘I’m a little confused. Is that gospel or is that something else?’ ”

Even with the right words, the true impact of the music may be lost if there is a disconnect between the words of the song and the life being lived by the artist.

“Many have departed from the true tenets of what gospel music is. Gospel is the good news. To live what the good news says has been something that in my estimation has become increasingly scarce,” said McAllister. “If those who are playing, singing and ministering the music don’t have the power that makes the music come alive, then you will have wonderful ear candy but no impact on a generation.”

Musicians: the salt and the light

Jazz and R&B saxophonist Kirk Whalum has spent most of his career playing secular music. He’s played and toured with the likes of Whitney Houston and Vandross, but like many black musicians in popular music, he grew up playing in the church. His son plays bass for Kelly Clarkson, and his nephew plays saxophone with many R&B and pop artists, including D’Angelo and Beyoncé.

Whalum estimates that up to 90 percent of the black musicians playing secular music today came out of the church, and for the younger generations of church musicians like his son and nephew, he offers some sage advice.

“I challenge some of these kids who come out of the church to serve God out in the mainstream industry, but kind of be stealth [about it],” he said. “You don’t have to come straight out and say that I’m a Christian. All you are really called to do is to live a life for Christ that draws people to the cross and at the very least to cause people to be curious about you and wonder what it is about you that makes you tick.”

McAllister has a cadre of supremely talented musicians in her employ at West Angeles who perform with the latest sensations of pop, R&B and hip-hop. She has set a high bar of expectation for her musicians and church musicians in general.

“Church musicians have an obligation when they go out into the world to be salt and light,” she said. “Salt does not become effective until it gets into an area of decay, and light does not become effective unless it goes into darkness. I have no problem with collaborations [with secular artists] as long as you can go in and change the environment and not allow the environment to change you.”

Rev. John Ray Jr., minister of worship and arts at Light of the World Christian Church in Indianapolis, sees a troubling trend with gospel music and musicians.

“Some black church music and musicians have forgotten that Christians are called to walk a tightrope,” he said. “We are walking the thin line between being in this world and not of it. God’s standards are not those of this world, but we are called to make it so. When we engage the world, we are to represent Christ and his way, not the other way around. This is true for music as well.”

Ray believes that this capitulation to the world by gospel music and musicians is exemplified in Snoop Dogg’s recent release, Bible of Love. “It is emblematic of where we are when a secular rapper who firmly espouses the values of the world [both before and after the release of the record] can decide to record a gospel album and it becomes No. 1 on the gospel charts.”

Christian hip-hop or gospel rap?

Christian hip-hop or gospel rap has been around commercially since the early 1980s. As a subgenre, it has not received anywhere near the traction, acclaim or influence of traditional urban gospel music. One of the reasons is that hip-hop was not born of the church but owes its roots to the streets of the black inner city and as such is often associated with the negative aspects of those streets and neighborhoods.

Jamel “Jkeyz” Richardson, a songwriter and producer who is also a member of the music ministry at the Resurrection Center, says Christian hip-hop faces an uphill battle because of the inability of some churches and Christians to have an open mind.

“Because hip-hop has produced music and lyrics about death, drugs and destruction, it’s hard for some people to accept and hear good news coming from someone using the same music,” he said.

Richardson has worked with and produced many Christian hip-hop artists, including John Cook, Canton Jones, Iz-Real and S. Todd (Bishop Townsend). He believes that artists like these as well as artists like Lecrae, Andy Mineo and KB may be able to reach a generation for Christ more effectively than traditional gospel artists would.

Homecoming

 

The Second Baptist Church of Washington, a historically black church that’s 160 years old, celebrates on the first Sunday after Barack Obama’s presidential election victory on Nov. 9, 2008. Choir members (from left) Mary Terrell, Grace Davis, Vernelle C. Hamit, Lena Bradley and Sharon Bradley belt out a tune during service.

The black church has had an extraordinary impact on American culture. So much of the music that the world has enjoyed over the past 75-plus years is a direct result of music and musicians who have come out of the church.

According to Ford, the world is reaping the benefits of the gifts of the black church.

“The church world doesn’t really realize how powerful they really are in terms of the arts [and culture],” he said. “When you talk about Bruno Mars, Jay-Z and so many others, I know their musical directors. They all come from the church. So whether we want to celebrate it or not, they are products of the church. And so the church has actually made the world successful because you have trusted what has come out of the church regardless of whether you agree with their philosophy or religion.”

Economic, social and technological factors have affected the way music is developed, marketed and consumed. Gospel music is not immune to those pressures, particularly in the gospel music industry. However, the black church as an institution has the power and the ability to profoundly affect the culture with the continuum of music and musicians that has given birth to going out into the world as “salt and light.”

Ford wants to make sure the music and musicians who go out into the world from the church find a way back home.

“Musicians and artists who start out in the church, they get their foundation. They get their chance to stand out, to perform, and then they go out and become ‘famous’ and financially secure,” he said. “For them to be able to complete the full circle, they need to be able to come back to the community and help the community. I feel in the church that should be the goal of what church musicians or church artists are doing. Whether or not everyone does it, that’s something different.”

A homecoming of sorts will help ensure that the pathway created between the church and the secular world continues to be a two-way street with most of the impact and change coming from the church.

What’s 🔥 Right Now

Waller recognizes the power of black music to do good and evil along that two-way street.

“There’s power in music. There’s power in the good news of Jesus Christ. There’s power in our type of music, meaning the tonalities that come out of the crash of African and European musicalities that is something that is very American, very special, very powerful, very appealing, and because of that we need to nurture it, use it to inspire.

“We need to recognize how powerful lyric is on top of that. When we get the right [or wrong] lyric on top of good music, it can inspire people to do good or do evil. [Much of the music of the world has a] lyric [that] lacks depth, insight and the prophetic, and so what we want to do is tie the two, because the right lyric with the right music will last forever.”

Andre Kimo Stone Guess is a writer and cultural critic from the Smoketown neighborhood in Louisville, Kentucky. He was VP and Producer for Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York and CEO of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Pittsburgh. He now runs GuessWorks, Inc. with his wife Cheryl.

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