For nearly two decades now, Kirk Franklin has been a multi-platinum-selling purveyor of majestic fusions of gospel and contemporary music, and a mirror of Christian humanity boldly reflecting what one faith walking man can accomplish when he focuses on God and taps deep into the gifts He gives. Franklin is a pioneer in gap-bridging musicianship, uniting audiences across gospel, hip hop, pop and R&B. His irresistible rhythms and rhapsodies have resulted in albums that consistently top both Billboard’s Gospel and Christian charts, as well as ascend triumphantly into the Top 10 of the R&B/Hip Hop chart. His unprecedented penetration into the mainstream has fortified him to also become a New York Times bestseller author for The Blueprint: A Plan for Living Above Life’s Storms (Gotham/Penguin). Franklin is also the host and executive producer of the gospel talent show “Sunday Best,” the highest-rated gospel program in BET network history now heading into its fourth season. To date, the musical trendsetter has garnered nine GRAMMY® Awards; an American Music Award; 39 Stellar Awards (gospel); 16 Dove Awards (CCM); eight NAACP Image Awards; two BET Music Awards, a Soul Train Award and numerous others.
And yet, with all of his success and acclaim – his overflow of awards and accolades – Kirk Franklin remains, at heart, a man who comes from shaky circumstances that could have paralyzed his spiritual growth within his humble familial beginnings. He is never far from that frightened and forlorn young man who didn’t always know which way to turn, which is what makes Franklin one of the most relatable and respected messengers in his field. It is in that humble spirit that he presents his timely 12th album, Hello Fear, (in stores March 22, 2011, on FoYo Soul Entertainment/Verity Records).
Hello Fear (produced by Kirk Franklin with incomparable longtime friend and co-producer Shaun Martin) is a 15-song stylistic tour de force that Franklin is delivering to a society reeling from toxic levels of unprecedented pain. It is a time of seasonal natural disasters, global financial distress and American mortgage collapse.
It is a time of international civil uprising and community educational system failings and domestic violence has escalated into the most horrific incidents of parental manslaughter ever to splatter across the evening news. Franklin recognizes these soul-trying times as “moments” to seek God and go inward to excise the cancer of trepidation. “As a kid,” Kirk witnesses, “I struggled with always feeling as if I was living under a cloud of fear. I was often displaced by my family and never feeling settled…always harboring a sense of uncertainty. This album is my emancipation proclamation.”
The title track, “Hello Fear,” is a brilliant confessional composition that opens with the intimate scenario of a man so joined with fear it is as if he has embraced it in his heart. However, Franklin is having a heart-to-heart with pain this blessed day, invoking a dismissal of life-altering proportions the moment he decides to start his morning with the words “Hello Grace.” The second half of the chorus definitively pins fear to the mat to declare, “Never again will I trust you/I’m tired of fighting it’s been way too long/ No longer your prisoner—today I remember/ Who I was then now is gone (they’re gone).” It represents a long road taken to reach this divine arrival yet a hard-earned liberation that Franklin believes is possible for every hurting soul on the planet because it came to him from a very personal place.
“One day I was in the middle of a very bad situation,” he shares. “I was walking through the front of my house with this problem weighing heavy on my spirit when God literally just dropped the first lines of this song, along with a melody, on my heart. I sat down at the piano and out came, ‘Hello fear/Before you sit down there’s something I’d like to explain.’ That’s all I had for a couple of months. What’s funny, though, is that from just that idea, I knew I wanted to call my next album Hello Fear.”
In Kirk Franklin’s singular manifestation of music ministry, the album unfolds from that epic and penetrating prelude into a deliciously eclectic buffet of pieces that moves from the rope-a-dope cadences of the spoken word piece “The Story of Fear” to the angelic vocalizations of The Texas Boys Choir on the Heavenly interlude “Never Alone;” from the infectious D.C. Go-Go groove of “Before I Die” to the heartwarming, cello-kissed missive of blessed reassurance “But the Blood.” From the “Glee” like energy of “Today,” to the bouncy feel-good soul minuet “No God Like You,” all the way to the purifying and unifying “Everybody Hurts.” The fourth verse of the latter states, “Everyone hurts – but not for long / That weight you bare – will make you strong / Your guilty stains – can be erased / The final price – paid by His life – Amazing Grace