Franklin pushes gospel boundaries with 'Nu Nation Project'
January 31, 2000
Web posted at: 4:53 p.m. EST (2153 GMT)
A CNN WorldBeat report
(CNN) -- "I preach Christ, whether people want to hear that or not," singer Kirk Franklin says. "I preach it in the spirit of love, you know, not in a spirit of hate, for whoever wants to listen -- black, white, Jew or Gentile. They are all my brothers, you know? They are all my sisters."
Franklin's recordings, which incorporate gospel with hip-hop and R&B music, have pushed the gospel genre beyond its traditional roots and helped turn it into a multimillion-dollar industry with a broad base of support among his contemporaries.
Says Doug Williams of the gospel group The Williams Brothers, "I would credit a lot of the upswing of gospel music lately to people like Kirk Franklin, who has really crossed the boundaries that have been put there -- that gospel songs and gospel music can't be played here or can't be seen here."
"He's brought in a whole 'nother hip-hop thing to this world, to this country," says singer Beverly Crawford.
Franklin's latest album of original work, "Nu Nation Project," was released in 1998 on the Interscope label. It won a Grammy for best contemporary soul gospel album and has gone platinum. The "Nu Nation Tour" live album was released in 1999.
Of the songs on "Nu Nation Project," the first single from the album, "Lean on Me," was nominated for a Grammy. Franklin says the song was "more of a socially conscious song than it was a song that was just flat-on-your-face Jesus. It's a song that talks about poverty and homelessness and fatherless children" -- a topic close to his own heart, as his teen parents abandoned him when he was 3 to the care of a distant relative, an aunt he considers his mother.
"Just because you are socially conscious does not mean that you're Christ conscious, you know?" Franklin continues. "And so that song was from a Christ-conscious person talking about social awareness."
"Revolution," he says, was a song that "expressed my militant view of things in society, my more radical version of what I was trying to say from 'Lean on Me.'"
The singer, who says there was "always a sense of God always present" for him, "even as a little baby," believes that God has blessed him in giving him the ability to finish an album like "Nu Nation Project."
"Every style of music is on this album. We recorded some music in South Africa, so we've got some Zulu stuff on that, some Latin, you know, rock, old school, pop, R&B, traditional. But it's the same lyrical content all the way through. And why shouldn't it be? Why just put it in a corner and put a choir robe on it and a tambourine? That's cool, but that's not all it is.
"There's not anything that we should be cocky about or should think that we're self-righteous about," he adds. "This is music that represents our faith and wherever people go in their faith, that's where the music is going to go. And as long as we stay true to the faith, the music will remain true."