His compositions range from catchy, rousing tunes to deeply, piercing ballads to upbeat, head nodding raps. But, regardless of the song, the message remains the same – the incredible power of God.
Franklin is the first to declare his unwavering, unapologetic commitment to Christ and his music reflects his belief. Award-winning songs such as “Why We Sing,” “Now, Behold the Lamb,” “Melodies From Heaven” and “You Are the Only One” loudly proclaim his faith as well as his many number one singles including “Stomp,” “I Smile,” and “Wanna Be Happy.”
“That’s always important for me so that people will understand that I’m a gospel artist and share the good news of Jesus Christ in every format and way that I can,” said Franklin, who released the track, “Love Theory,” in January and plans to launch the album in May.
“I’m just doing what is authentic to me and I try to do what is true to me and try to communicate how big the God I’m talking about is and how relevant the conversation of God is within culture and to continue to try to push the conversation of God forward within culture. That is very, very important to me.”
Spreading the Gospel has resonated with a plethora of Christian and secular listeners, along with many faith and mainstream artists. Franklin’s diverse collaborations include songs with the Gospel Music Workshop of America, the Georgia Mass Choir, Cheryl “Salt” James, Karen Clark Sheard, Mary J. Blige and Bono. Also, his soundtracks flow throughout theatrical films like “Get on the Bus,” “The Preacher’s Wife,” “The Prince of Egypt” and “Kingdom Come.”
With such an impressive body of work, it’s no surprise that Franklin has earned 12 Grammy Awards, 43 Stellar Awards, nine NAACP Image Awards, four Billboard Music Awards, three BET Awards, and an American Music Award.
Pondering how his career has endured, Franklin said, “I really believe that it is God’s grace and God blessing me with these songs. He lets me borrow these songs and I believe that it’s His gift, it’s His grace and I’m just really appreciative to be a pen in His process.”
Considering his success with gospel music, it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t always in the forefront for Franklin. Born in Fort Worth, Texas and raised by his aunt, he began playing at the age of four and quickly learned to read and write music and play by ear.
“I was influenced by so many different genres coming up as a kid. I didn’t really get engulfed into gospel music until about 15 or 16 when I became [a] born-again [Christian],” he recalled.
“Before that, most of my life, I was a break dancer, rapping at the skating rink and I was really into early hip-hop, early R&B, the Commodores, Elton John and The Jackson 5 – that was the music that really motivated me and inspired me. It wasn’t until later on that gospel music really started to become part of the fabric of who I am,” said Franklin.
The release of his debut album, “Kirk Franklin & The Family,” in 1993 shattered both the gospel and R&B charts, remaining number one on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums list for 42 weeks and near the top for nearly two years. His succeeding works continued the trend with “Whatcha Lookin’ 4” going double platinum in 1996 and garnering his first Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album.
Around the same time, Franklin dreamed of presenting a gospel tour in major venues just as mainstream artists did. Connecting with a friend who was also a promoter, he enlisted recording artists Fred Hammond and Yolanda Adams to join him in the venture.
Describing that experience, Franklin said, “We were really did the first kind of big-scale gospel tour called “The Tour of Life,” and it kind of opened up the doors for this whole idea of gospel music being able to live in venues outside of the church. That was a very big moment.”
Even today, “big moments” persist in Franklin’s life. His upcoming projects consist of hosting the Stellar Awards in Las Vegas on March 29, partnering with his manager, Ron Hill, and Live Nation Urban to headline the 2nd Annual Exodus Music & Arts Festival on May 26, in Texas, starting his tour in July and uniting with BET to bring back the “Sunday Best” gospel singing competition show later this year.
Although his projects will vary, his underlying goal is always the same – spreading the message of Christ to all that he encounters and in all that he does.
“The message of the Gospel and the message of God’s hope are for everyone and anyone. I’m very appreciative for the opportunity to have the chance to speak God’s great name. I need people to know that it is an honor for me to have opportunities to talk to others about how much I believe in what I am saying,” explained Franklin.
“I believe in it on so many deep levels and so many different layers of my life and lots of other people. This is a very important component to our existence – the conversation of a loving God.”