When gospel artist Fred Hammond was tapped by Kanye West to do a feature on his “Jesus is King” album, the singer knew he would face the same harsh criticism that was hurled his way when he worked with Snoop Dogg on “Call Him.”
“I lost a couple best friends — a husband and wife team walked away from me, called me a sinner,” said Hammond of his collab with the West coast rapper. “I’m almost 50; I’m solid and sober emotionally,” Hammond adds. “But it got rough for a minute.”
Hammond says he made the decision to work with West on the track “Hands On” when the hip-hop star approached him at Chance The Rapper’s wedding.
“If nothing else, I knew a lot of the Christian world would not embrace him. I did something for Snoop on his last record, and I got a lot of flak for it,” he said in an interview with Rolling Stone. “He got a lot of flak too. Religious people are very territorial. So I knew [Kanye] would have a hard time.”
When asked by Rolling Stone why is that backlash prevalent in gospel? — peep what Hammond had to say below:
I come from the Golden Age of gospel in the Seventies and Eighties. You’re not supposed to mingle with what the church calls people in the world. If they don’t sing gospel exclusively, then you are trying to cross over, you’re a hypocrite, God don’t love you no more.
I care about Kanye staying on and having enough hope to make it through the change that he wants. I know he’s strong right now. But the thing that will beat you down the most is when the people who you think should embrace you, they reject you.
So I said, ‘You gotta block that out.’ The way to block that out, is tell ’em your point, but tell ’em in a humble way. Don’t rear up. That stuff will die down as they see you stay. So he said ‘OK, cool, what are you thinking?’ So I gave him a couple scriptures. I told him about the scripture that said, when Jesus was talking to the church, he said, if you all don’t praise me, the very rocks will cry out and praise me. We think that’s a mountain or a big old thing, a rock or a stone. It could be. Or it could be people whose lives were stoney, cold, hard, people who you would never think would give God any look. He said, I’ll touch them, make them praise me.
So I’m looking at Kanye and saying, it’s possible that you’re one of those rocks. But don’t be hard against anybody. They’re gonna doubt you, just don’t be hard against them. He said, that sounds great. He said he had a vibe, and he sent me that. That’s the part you hear — [sings] hands on, hands up. That’s all he had, and some music that went after. So I wrote the verse that I sang: I deserve all the criticism you got.
We were talking every day for twenty minutes for a week. But I sent him this, and three days, I don’t hear anything. I’m thinking, this must have been a wack idea. Nothing. He called me back, says he loves the vibe, but it sounds too apologetic.
How did Hammond persuade Ye that this was a strong basis for a song?
I said, this is just a route you take as a believer. This is what Jesus’ message is about: humility. I said, I’m not being apologetic. I’m pulling an 8 Mile, basically. In that movie, Eminem talked about himself so bad, then said, say something that the people don’t know. He took the weapon out of their hands. That’s when Kanye said, I got an idea. And when I heard it the other day, I thought, this is brilliant.
That message is powerful. And it’s resonating amongst a lot of Christians who are hitting me up. They would normally say, you hypocrite, you’re out there singing with these people, you ain’t got it, you goin’ to hell. If you’re praising God for real, I’ll praise Him with you. The bible says, let everything that has breath praise the lord.
Read the full conversation here.