There’s seems to be something a little strange going on in the music world lately. And gospel powerhouse Kirk Franklin seems to be at the heart of it.
Christian artists and secular artists often live on two different planets and those worlds don’t always mix well. Many Christian rappers decry the secular focus on drugs, sex, and violence while many secular rappers scoff at the religious agendas of Christian artists.
But, look what can happen when worlds collide.
We reported the other day on mainstream artist Chance the Rapper and how his recent tweets seemed to hint at a growing relationship with Christ, if not an all out salvation. Chance has stated, “One of my favorite—if not my favorite artists, definitely my favorite composer—is Kirk Franklin.” And, as our previous article mentioned, Chance brought out Franklin as a surprise guest to close out his performance at the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago last summer, along with a full gospel choir. The rising secular rap star seems to have a growing association with Franklin, both personally and professionally. Although Chance has often stated how he grew up in the church, is his association with Kirk Franklin compelling him towards a closer relationship with God?
And what fruit is being born by Franklin’s involvement with Kanye West?
The first hint came when Kanye tweeted this about his upcoming album WAVES, due for release on February 11th…
This album is actually a Gospel album
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016
Then, days later it came out that Franklin was involved in the project. Photos and comments began popping up on social media showing West and Franklin, as well as Crystal Lewis, Anthony Evans, and several other gospel artists at work in the studio.
— TeamKanyeDaily (@TeamKanyeDaily) January 30, 2016
In an interview on Thursday with radio host Big Boy, Kanye stated, “…I’m trying to open up hearts, minds. When I was sitting in the studio with Kirk [Franklin] and we were just going through it … I said, ‘This is a gospel album — with a whole lot of cursing on it, but it’s still a gospel album.”
The working track list that Kanye tweeted a picture of includes a song titled, “Father Stretch My Hands.” The song apparently samples Pastor T.L. Barrett’s 2012 gospel song of the same name, according to a recent snapchat of West listening to the track in his studio.
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) January 27, 2016
All of this seems to indicate that there is, at the very least, a legitimate gospel influence happening on the album.
West who’s faith pendulum (in public at least) has seen some severe swings during his career, has always maintained his Christianity. His earlier works featured such well known songs as “Jesus Walks,” but his more recent work has been attacked for its overt darkness and Satanic references and imagery. Could it be that his work with Franklin has him shifting back to a more Godly direction?
Is Justin Bieber on the list?
Franklin has also been previously rumored to have projects in the works with Justin Bieber. Franklin has stated he is friends with Bieber who himself has seemingly been trying to strengthen his own Christian walk in recent months.
So is Kirk Franklin a beacon to these spiritually confused/growing/searching artists? Is his influence turning them towards a closer relationship with Christ?
Many claim that the opposite is happening.
Franklin has come under attack for his musical approach which often merges hip-hop with gospel. It’s brought the luminaries of the rap world and the sound of the club scene into the church and not everyone has always been comfortable with that.
He sparked controversy with the title of his latest album, Losing My Religion. The title track, in fact, ended with the line, “I’m losing my religion, Thank God / Helping you lose yours is my job.”
Many Christians, who didn’t take the trouble to look or listen any further, jumped to the literal conclusion that Franklin was denouncing his belief in Jesus and denouncing his faith. They have gone on to categorize his association with secular artists like Chance the Rapper, Kanye West and Justin Bieber as basically embracing the devil. Apparently a thought provoking title doesn’t always hit the mark with those that don’t like to think a whole lot.
The point Franklin was making with his album was to seek relationship with Jesus over allegiance to and dependence on a religious institution. Anyone who examines Franklin’s social media commentary, interviews, public appearances, musical directions, and involvement is virtually any activity, can hardly help to conclude that he is an extremely devout man of faith who deeply loves the Lord.
So what’s going on?
Chance the Rapper is infusing gospel music into his performance and tweeting about his growing faith, Justin Bieber is seeking him out, and Kanye West’s new album may be going gospel. Sure there are commercial considerations at work, but what’s happening to these artists personally? What is stirring in their souls? Is their relationship with Kirk Franklin leading them to a closer relationship with God?
It’s all really conjecture on my part, but I’d like to think that God is using Kirk Franklin as His instrument. It’s an inspiring example of how we can all be beacons of His light and influence those we work with. It’s not always the fiery sermon that grabs, holds, and changes the non-believer. It’s often just the example of how God is working in our lives that makes us an inspiring, and potentially life-changing, example to others.
Like Kirk Franklin.