NPR featured a segment about this new genre of gospel – taken directly from hip hop’s southern-fried branch of “trap music” – and how it’s rubbing gospel purists the wrong way.
Kirk Franklin, whose had the church riled up in the 90s with his new urban-heavy beats, was asked to comment on Campbell’s track, produced by her husband Warryn Campbell.
NPR’s ARUN RATH: What were your thoughts when you first heard it?
FRANKLIN: I just commend her efforts, man. I think that trying to take a message, you know, that’s old as many millennia and trying to make it culturally relevant is always a tough job.
RATH: And as I’m sure you know, there’s been some pretty strong reaction against it. There a lot of gospel music fans – or some – that seem to think that it’s taking the art form where it shouldn’t go.
FRANKLIN: Well, I think that more than anything, man, is that I always try to remember the heart of the person doing it. And I am a very, very good friends with Erica. She has a great heart for God. She has a great heart for ministry. And I just believe that the heart always wins.
RATH: You know, you and Erica obviously have something in common, and that’s the reason why we wanted to talk you, not just because you’re huge in the gospel world, but because I remember, you know, 20 years ago now, you took some heat, as well.
FRANKLIN: (Laughter) Twenty years ago, I was nine years old.
RATH: Well, we’re talking about the ’90s, and you took some heat for bringing the funk into church. What sort of stuff were you hearing from people, you know, when you had some stuff that sounded like there was some hip-hop, there was some go-go, there were some funk?
FRANKLIN: Yeah, well, you know, it was a very hard time because it’s very hard when you hear churches talk about you. And, you know, some people start to question your heart. It can be very hard for you because, you know, you know, you’re in your early 20s. And you don’t really understand what all the fuss is about ’cause you’re doing just what’s real to you, because I came from break-dancing. I came from hip-hop. And I trusted Christ with my heart. You know, he didn’t, you know, have me start listening to George Strait, you know. …So, you know, if you like Italian food before you became born-again Christian, you know, you’re probably still going to like Italian food. There’s nothing wrong with that, you know. I’m trying to make Christ relevant within the culture.
RATH: Did you see the people who criticize Erica Campbell or other styles maybe having a point about, you know, the themes in gospel music deserve respectful treatment. It’s like you wear your Sunday best when you go to church, and so you should have, like, your best language, your best…
FRANKLIN: Yeah. Boo. Boo to all of that. That’s my problem with all of that, man. Boo to what to wear to church and what you can and can’t say. Boo. It’s almost like, you know, who are we? Man, we’re not referees. It’s almost like if you don’t like it, pray for her. You know, man, you know, we’re losing people. The church is losing its power because we stink at how we talk. We stink at how we communicate. Nobody hears love from our voices. They hear the schoolteacher from Charlie Brown’s “Peanuts” – womp, womp, womp, womp, womp. Now, not all churches, not all Christians – because I get beat up by that. But if we let our light shine, that sounds a lot more louder than picket signs and complaints.
Listen to the full NPR interview below: