Every once in a while I get to speak to a legendary figure in music. This time that legend was Kirk Franklin.
A storied career that began in 1993, Kirk Franklin found a way to merge his love for Hip-Hop, Gospel music and his love for God to find success. He paved the way for Gospel music to become mainstream and opened the floodgates for what is now referred to as Contemporary Gospel. Long before artists like Mary Mary, Deitrick Haddon, Tim Bowman Jr., Lecrae, or Andy Mineo, Kirk Franklin was able to make Gospel music and the message of the Bible cool. Even more impressive is that although Kirk Franklin generally doesn’t sing, he’s still been able to remain relevant, because his “pen game” is just that impressive. Song he has written have been sung by all the great Gospel singers of our time.
As far as I’m concerned, music is music. With nine Grammy Awards, thirteen Dove Awards and twenty-eight Stellar Awards under his belt, and a list of accolades that are too long to list, Kirk Franklin is simply dominant in his craft. Include his executive producer and host role on BET’s Sunday Best, which, eight seasons in has produced a new generation of Gospel music stars, and it’s hard not to acknowledge Franklin’s genius for all things Gospel.
His latest work, Losing My Religion, is in stores and online now. Kirk, humble as ever, is still a man on a mission to get the message out about his God. Opening up to Parlé Magazine about the music, the perception of the church and much more, Kirk Franklin keeps it real. Read the full interview here…
Parlé Magazine: I want to jump right into while I have you. New album, Losing My Religion, out now. Let’s talk about that title, why the choice to go with that one?
Kirk Franklin: Well I think it’s the climate and I think it’s time to have the discussion about why it’s been a decline of people having an understanding of what the walk of God really should be, because sometimes the system of religion really does get in the way of people having a clear focus and an understanding that the love of God is not the laws. It’s not necessarily trying to be complete in all of the laws as much as it is understanding that God has given us a gift. Sometimes we allow people to make us work for what He has already given us for free. So to be able to try to show people the true dear love of God sometimes you have to pull back some of the barriers of things that try to get in the way, some of the dogmas, and the ideologies, some of the doctrines and denominations, sometimes get in the way of just a pure healthy one-on-one friendship that allows you to be known by God and to know God.
Parlé: Obviously, once folks hear the music, there’s no denying that Losing My Religion holds the same general principles that you have always embodied. What would you say to folks who might think you’re stepping away from what you’ve done with the title and maybe the message they may get from the Internet?
Kirk Franklin: Naw man, I’m a church boy for life and I rep Christ til the end. And that’s why it hurts me when I see some of these people not be able to know him because they been taught that if you got tattoos and piercings, you know, or if you don’t go to this church or you shop this way and if you don’t act this way that you’re not accepted and you’re not loved by God. And so, it’s really hurting my heart to see something that I love be so contaminated by the rules and systems that are man’s approach to try to provide God. But God’s already provided himself when he gave us the perfect sacrifice, when he gave us his son. That’s the definition of who he is, John 3:16, ya dig. “For God so loved the world he gave his only son that whosoever shall believeth in him should not perish and shall have everlasting life.” That’s the end of the story, that’s the beginning, the arc, the conclusion of all that we need. Everything else, that’s why people have become fatigued and tired and broken down on the side of the road because we put too much weight on their shoulders.
Parlé: I know artists like you and several other contemporary Gospel artists are helping to change the lens and the way God and religion are seen, but what else do you think can be done to continue to persuade folks of the work of God?
Kirk Franklin: I think more than anything its all about us making sure that we continue to develop relationships with people. That real transformation will always happen through relationships that allow us to be able to give pure hearts and be transformative in the culture. It’s not always going to happen in the highest pulpit, but it’s definitely going to happen in the pews.
Parlé: You just mentioned it about the tattoos, and your comments on homophobia, apologizing on behalf of the church have gone viral, but for people who might fear church or might fear developing that relationship because for whatever reason they may feel like they won’t be allowed or won’t fit it. What guidance can you provide for them?
Kirk Franklin: That the church is the door for everyone to be able to come in because the same gospel isn’t for one person, it’s the same gospel for all people. There shouldn’t be a gospel to make some people feel beat up, and not welcome. The word is true, the word is real and it’s full of truth and love. And must also be balanced with kindness and humility and never in a dogmatic type of way that doesn’t allow people to be seen as people first. We should see people as humans and we’re all broken people, and we’re all welcome. Everybody’s welcome to the cross man. Nobody will be turned away from the cross.
Parlé: Those were some important topics I wanted to touch on before we got deeper about this album, which is equally as important. Why’s you think now was the time for this album?
Kirk Franklin: My friend, sometimes you really never know. You try to move on being obedient and trying to walk it out the best way you know to walk it out, and really what you feel God laid on your heart to do. And so that’s what I been striving to do. And you know how I feel like it’s time too my dude? I start to feel pregnant with music—and I don’t mean that as an insult to women—you know, but I feel pregnant with music. I feel God putting in me stuff that needs to get burned. And so during the process I feel it’s time for me to get it out. I’m very thankful for the opportunity to do the gift.
Parlé: There’s a lot of great music on this project, but “Wanna Be Happy?” is the single for this album launch, how do you go about picking your singles? You always seem to have some great ones to lead off.
Kirk Franklin: You know what man, you never really know. You kinda just go with the flow of the people around you. Whether it’s the engineer, like “yo, Kirk I think this the single man,” or the guy who does the strings, like, “yo Kirk, that’s the single man.” You just kinda go with that, you never really know.
Parlé: An artist like yourself who has been doing this for decades, who has gone through the ups and downs and ebbs and flows that come with longevity, what keeps you motivated even when others may be whispering that it’s time for some new voices?
Kirk Franklin: Well, first I think that’s a really good question… I really love God! My heart bleeds for Christ, you know. That is my ultimate love affair, it’s my relationship with Jesus Christ. He’s everything to me. And then I love music. I never been a fan of the industry or the business part of it, but I love music. My love for Him, my love for music, those are the things I’m going to continue to do because I’m passionate like with fire for the both of them.
Parlé: Kirk Franklin is one of those people that inspires people on a whole new level to first have an interest and seek God, but at the same time be excited for Gospel music and the message. Is it a burden or do you ever feel burdened by having that much… power for lack of a better word?
Kirk Franklin: Oh man, wow… (pauses to think about it.) I feel if someone feels like they have so much power that they are no longer in need of the Divine power, then he has failed. One verse that I love that we can use in this context is, “if the light shining on you, is brighter than the light shining in you, then the light shining on you will destroy you.” And so, I really try to live by that, I really try to live by the fact that God loves me, but He doesn’t need me. You know, and that I am replaceable. When it comes to power, I feel myself as a servant of it, not an owner of it. And if there is an influence of power that God delivers, it’s His power, it’s just our job to manage it and to be managers of it, but never owners.
Good question though my do, good, good question!
Parlé: What should people expect when they pick up this Losing My Religion album? Why should they pick it up if they haven’t done so already?
Kirk Franklin: This album is a movie man. It’s a movie to our lives, it’s a movie to our faith. It’s a movie to our journey. It’s a movie that reflects the scenes in our lives. A wonderful blessing about being a songwriter, of being used by God to be a songwriter of albums is that it allows me to approach it with a very linear approach where it’s not having to talk with another producer about songwriting ideas and having to talk to this piano player about songs I did, it’s all being birth out of me by the Lord giving them to me, so I’m able to approach it like they’re all one song. They all have the same type of theme and arc and storyline, so it really feels like an audible movie. So I pray for this album that it’s like a one-stop shop for your soul. Wherever you are in that day, this album is a one-stop shop for what you’re feeling in that moment.
Parlé: Final question, Parlé Magazine is a music and entertainment magazine, not a Gospel or Christian magazine, so a lot of our readers may not necessarily be Christians or even religious for that matter, but they respect Kirk Franklin as an artist, a person and as a musician. That said, what kind of guidance would you give someone like that towards your beliefs, your message and towards that love for God?
Kirk Franklin: Wow, dang that’s another good question. Well you know, music is the tool that allows us to be able to walk through the process. Music is the tool that allows us to speak at a whole other level to people. And so, we have the responsibility with our gifts, since they are just gifts, we have a responsibility to make sure that the giver of the gifts gets the glory.
Kirk Franklin’s Losing My Religion is available now!
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