Kirk Franklin On 'Trap Gospel' And Taking Heat From The Church For gospel purists, Erica Campbell's "I Luh God" resembles secular club music in a way that's too close for comfort. Kirk Franklin knows a thing or two about that.
NPR logo

Kirk Franklin On 'Trap Gospel' And Taking Heat From The Church

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/401978156/402413163" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Kirk Franklin On 'Trap Gospel' And Taking Heat From The Church

Kirk Franklin On 'Trap Gospel' And Taking Heat From The Church

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/401978156/402413163" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ARUN RATH, HOST:

If you're into gospel music, you know Erica Campbell as half of the duo Mary Mary.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LUH GOD")

MARY MARY: (Singing) Take the shackles off my feet so I can dance. I just want to praise you.

RATH: Last month, she released a solo album called "Help 2.0," and there's one track with a very different sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LUH GOD")

ERICA CAMPBELL: (Singing) I luh God. You don't luh God? What's wrong with you? I luh God. You don't love God? What's wrong with you?

RATH: The song is "I Luh God." Erica Campbell is taking some heat for venturing into a brand of hip-hop known as trap, but she's defending the song. Here she is on the Tom Joyner Morning Show.

CAMPBELL: Now, everybody don't like it. Some people are kind of upset about it, but that's OK. They'll be all right.

TOM JOYNER: But, you know, every time - every time you all do some music...

CAMPBELL: (Laughter).

JOYNER: Yeah, you all are always pushing the envelope in some form.

CAMPBELL: You have to. You have to. God don't live in a box. Why should I?

JOYNER: All right.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I LUH GOD")

CAMPBELL: (Singing) I'm forgiven. I'm forgiven. See, I done been forgiven. Now I'm living. And when I say...

RATH: This sounded familiar to me - not the music, but the controversy. I remember when Kirk Franklin hit the gospel scene in the '90s. People were saying similar things about his hits, like "Stomp."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STOMP")

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) And when I think about your goodness, it makes me want to stomp.

KIRK FRANKLIN: (Laughter) You can't take my joy, devil. Makes me clap.

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Makes me clap my hands.

RATH: So we asked Kirk Franklin to weigh in.

So I'm assuming by now you've heard the Erica Campbell song "I Luh God."

FRANKLIN: (Laughter) Yeah, man.

RATH: What were your thoughts when you first heard it?

FRANKLIN: I just commend her efforts, man. I think that trying to take a message, you know, that's old as many millennia and trying to make it culturally relevant is always a tough job.

RATH: And as I'm sure you know, there's been some pretty strong reaction against it. There a lot of gospel music fans - or some - that seem to think that it's taking the art form where it shouldn't go.

FRANKLIN: Well, I think that more than anything, man, is that I always try to remember the heart of the person doing it. And I am a very, very good friends with Erica. She has a great heart for God. She has a great heart for ministry. And I just believe that the heart always wins.

RATH: You know, you and Erica obviously have something in common, and that's the reason why we wanted to talk you, not just because you're huge in the gospel world, but because I remember, you know, 20 years ago now, you took some heat, as well.

FRANKLIN: (Laughter) Twenty years ago, I was nine years old.

(LAUGHTER)

RATH: Well, we're talking about the '90s, and you took some heat for bringing the funk into church.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF YOU'VE BEEN DELIVERED")

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) If you've been delivered, stand up on your feet and praise the Lord.

RATH: What sort of stuff were you hearing from people, you know, when you had some stuff that sounded like there was some hip-hop, there was some go-go, there were some funk?

FRANKLIN: Yeah, well, you know, it was a very hard time because it's very hard when you hear churches talk about you. And, you know, some people start to question your heart. It can be very hard for you because, you know, you know, you're in your early 20s. And you don't really understand what all the fuss is about 'cause you're doing just what's real to you, because I came from break-dancing. I came from hip-hop. And I trusted Christ with my heart. You know, he didn't, you know, have me start listening to George Strait, you know.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IF YOU'VE BEEN DELIVERED")

FRANKLIN: (Singing) Jump to this. Bounce to this. Clap to this. Just as long as you don't question this. Radical...

Now, mind you, you know, I love George Strait, you know.

RATH: Yeah.

FRANKLIN: But I wasn't riding around the hood listening to George Strait, you know. So, you know, if you like Italian food before you became born-again Christian, you know, you're probably still going to like Italian food. There's nothing wrong with that, you know. I'm trying to make Christ relevant within the culture.

RATH: Did you see the people who criticize Erica Campbell or other styles maybe having a point about, you know, the themes in gospel music deserve respectful treatment. It's like you wear your Sunday best when you go to church, and so you should have, like, your best language, your best...

FRANKLIN: Yeah. Boo.

RATH: (Laughter).

FRANKLIN: Boo. Boo to all of that. That's my problem with all of that, man. Boo to what to wear to church and what you can and can't say. Boo. It's almost like, you know, who are we? Man, we're not referees. It's almost like if you don't like it, pray for her. You know, man, you know, we're losing people. The church is losing its power because we stink at how we talk. We stink at how we communicate. Nobody hears love from our voices. They hear the schoolteacher from Charlie Brown's "Peanuts" - womp, womp, womp, womp, womp (ph). Now, not all churches, not all Christians - because I get beat up by that. But if we let our light shine, that sounds a lot more louder than picket signs and complaints.

RATH: That's gospel superstar Kirk Franklin.

FRANKLIN: Superstar - boo.

RATH: (Laughter).

FRANKLIN: Boo to that word. It's like those two things don't even go together.

RATH: What should I call you?

FRANKLIN: That's my boy Kirk Franklin.

RATH: That's my boy Kirk Franklin.

FRANKLIN: There you go.

RATH: He's the host of the competition show Sunday Best on BET Praise on satellite radio. So my boy Kirk, when are we going to hear a new record from you?

FRANKLIN: I am at home with the piano and trying to see if there's some songs there that God will let me borrow. Yeah, so, man, I pray that an album comes out this year, man, God willing.

RATH: Well, you'll come back on the show when you've got that. We'd love to - love to talk to you again.

FRANKLIN: And when I come back, what are you going to call me?

RATH: My boy Kirk Franklin.

FRANKLIN: There you go.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STOMP")

FRANKLIN: (Singing) GP, are you with me?

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Oh, yeah, we having church. We ain't going nowhere.

FRANKLIN: (Singing) GP, are you with me?

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Oh, yeah, we having church. We ain't going nowhere.

FRANKLIN: (Singing) GP, are you with me?

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Singing) Oh, yeah, we having church. We ain't going nowhere.

Copyright © 2015 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.