Kirk Franklin has done it successfully for years and it has become his M.O. In his heyday, Kirk collaborated with everybody because as a gospel artist he was equally attractive to mainstream audiences! Who could forget the R. Kelly collaborations and interpolations of secular hits made his own! His biggest was “Stomp”, the remix featured Cheryl “Salt” James who dropped one of the hottest verses of the time on the song, part of Franklin’s top grossing album for nearly 20 years. On his next album, “Lean On Me” featured secular artists R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige and Bono. The world hadn’t yet known Bono as a believer so that was huge, especially to gospel music fans. His latest crossover offering? “God Help Us to Love” featuring Tori Kelly and the Hamiltones.
The trend continued as Donald Lawrence brought on Missy Elliot, Faith Evans and Kelly Price to sing along with the Tri-City Singers. Kelly Price was a professed believer even though she sang R&B but to see Faith Evans singing with the choir was a bold and daring move. We liked the music and we gave it a pass. Pre-dating Kirk Franklin’s collaborations with Chance the Rapper and Kanye West, rapper and Pastor Levy collaborated with Lil Boosie on “God Got Me“. The song is interesting because it was one of Boosie’s first recordings following his bout with cancer, which is referenced in the song’s hook. While many CCH artists are looked over for collabs with singers, an emerging sub-genre in the gospel community is trap gospel which puts gospel verses over a bed of “trap music“, like Erica Campbell’s “I Luh God“.
Other artists have done similar to varying results. Last year, Nicki Minaj joined Tasha Cobbs-Leonard on “I’m Getting Ready”. The song is great, so great that when Robin Roberts invited Cobbs-Leonard on the Good Morning America set, she performed it. I noticed that she performed the song without Nicki Minaj and I loved it! I really did…in fact, her entire time on the GMA set Cobbs-Leonard and her team were the embodiment of 21st century ministry.
Charlie Wilson openly talks about his faith, a second chance on life and how blessed he is to be able to do what he does. Last year he recorded a song called “I’m Blessed” that featured a verse by rapper TI. Problem is, on the rap verse, he uses profanity. Many of my internet radio colleagues added the song without the profanity edited out. What listeners heard on their station and shows was TI saying: “…devil you a d*mn lie…” during his verse.
Then, Snoop Dogg announced plans that he would be putting together a gospel album. The album is great. Sonically, it’s top notch. The production on it is superb, the songwriting is well crafted and the overall thought process behind it is actually genius. My problem with the album is that it’s more crossover than gospel. Of course, the way the industry would have it, it’s billed as a gospel album in part mainly to the contributions on the project…gospel royalty from top to bottom.
The songs on the radio gave me pause, though. “Blessing Me Again” with Rance Allen actually sounds like a Rance Allen song…the rap in my opinion takes away from the song. I’m a fan of Snoop Dogg but I like him more in the role of “curator” than collaborator on this song. “One More Day” with Charlie Wilson has an accompanying concept video that puts the two in a prayer circle around a comatose young lady with Snoop leading the prayer. I actually would like to see that song on urban adult contemporary radio and not the gospel channels.
Wait, does gospel crossover music even exist, anymore? It seems to have disappeared and everything is played on the gospel channel. The problem I have with these new crossover offerings is this: way too many of the secular collaborators apart of the song speak from a different context. For instance, Tasha Cobbs-Leonard speaks from a worshiper’s perspective and Nicki Minaj raps about boats, money and people talking about her. It’s purely conjecture, but I’m not exactly sure that’s what Todd Galberth had in mind when he wrote the song!
Here are a few suggestions I have:
“Blessing Me Again” with Snoop’s rap on it is sent to Urban/Rhythmic Radio, the version without the rap is sent to Christian/Gospel radio.
“One More Day” is sent to Urban/Rhythmic radio.
“I’m Getting Ready” without Nicki Minaj is sent to Gospel radio, the version with her rap is sent to Urban/Rhythmic radio.
Tamela Mann “Through It All” with Timbaland is sent to Urban/Rhythmic radio.
Perhaps I don’t understand radio, that may be true. However, consumers aren’t as “dumb” as the industry believes we are. Consumers speak by turning the channel and not buying product, sometimes labels and artists just don’t “listen”.
I believe that the slightest changes will actually help artists and labels create a broader audience, if only for the “life” of a single song. Who knows, you may even win someone to Christ or worst-case scenario, get a new fan for your artist.
What do you think about the placement of music? Should gospel radio play every version, or should artists create different versions for different radio formats? Add your take in the comment section, below!