Born c. 1970, in Fort Worth, TX; married c. 1996; children: Kerrion, son. Addresses: Record company--B-rite Music, 417 East Regent St., Englewood, CA, 90301.

Gospel singer Kirk Franklin combines hip hop rhythms with overtly religious messages and has found massive crossover success in both Christian and pop music in America. Franklin and his back-up group the Family scored a hit in 1993 with "Song We Sing"--a rare crossover success. This rather impressive feat was overshadowed four years later by the song "Stomp," a song recorded with the group God's Property and featuring a sample from "One Nation Under a Groove." "Stomp" stormed up the charts and became the first gospel video to air in heavy rotation on MTV (Music Television). Franklin's appeal lay in the fact that he rather adeptly blends urban rhythms with his religious rhetoric, producing a savvy contemporary Christian mix aimed at members of the hip hop nation. John Morthland of Texas Monthly said that "the lean goateed Franklin is able to score with hard gospel largely because he has the qualities other gospel stars lack: charisma, sex appeal, stage presence, ambition, business savvy, and street credibility."

It was not always this easy for Franklin. Born out of wedlock to teenage parents who never married or lived together, he had sporadic contact with his parents while he was growing up. When he was three, Franklin's mother put him up for adoption at a Fort Worth church. His great- aunt Gertrude Franklin, who was then in her mid 60s, took him in and eventually adopted him, insisting that he get involved in her church and in its youth activities, especially the choir. Growing up in the church under his great-aunt's watchful eye gave Franklin the drive to excel in the choir. By the age of seven, his innate talent had earned him the opportunity to pursue a gospel music recording contract. His great-aunt expressly forbade this, citing Franklin's extremely young age. A mere four years later, Franklin had attained the rank of minister of music at the Mt. Rose Baptist Church. In this position, he was responsible for all of the music for all of the choral groups at the church.

While was growing up, the choir and its attendant lifestyle were still more of a sideline to Franklin than his life's vocation. Commenting on this to Morthland, Franklin said; "I was always a moody child. In the house, it was just me and an older woman. When I got around my peers, I just went buck wild, because I wanted to be a kid, you know?" Hedonism filled Franklin's days when he was not in church. His rebellious antics included fighting, hanging around with gang members, hanging out at pool halls, causing trouble at school, fighting, and smoking marijuana.

When he was 16, Franklin's friend, 17-year-old Eric Pounds, was killed when his parents' gun fell from the top of the closet and accidentally discharged. Devastated, Franklin sought solace from the church, reading the Bible, and getting more involved in music. The following year, Franklin's faith was tested again when he got his girlfriend pregnant. Franklin told Allison Samuels of Newsweek: "those two things changed my life and got me in touch with the Lord and the Lord's music." He added to Morthland that "what I had done {getting his girlfriend pregnant out of wedlock} was wrong, but God forgave me, so I was able to forgive myself." Franklin's girlfriend gave birth to a son named Kerrion. She raised him by herself until early 1996. It was then that Franklin decided to do for his son what was never done for him. "I didn't want my son raised like I was. I wanted him to know his father," he explained to Morthland.

At 19, Franklin met Milton Biggham, executive director of Savoy Records, the leading label in gospel music. Biggham persuaded him to join his newly established Dallas-Fort Worth Mass Choir. The Dallas-Fort Worth Mass Choir released two albums on Savoy with Franklin, 1991's Look How Far We've Come and Another Chance in 1993. Biggham, who was Franklin's mentor in the industry, offered him a solo recording contract with Savoy. After much thought, Franklin politely declined feeling that on the Savoy label he would only be a small fish in a big pond. Not long after this, Franklin was contacted by Vicky Latallaide who had recently established the Los Angeles based Gospo- Centric label. After days of prayerful deliberation, he signed up with Gospo-Centric.

The breakthrough success of Kirk Franklin and the Family in 1993 exceeded the expectations of both Gspo-Centric and Franklin. The album, which teamed Franklin up with his back-up group, the Family, contained the hit inspirational track, "Why We Sing," which not only topped the gospel music charts but managed to break out of the gospel ghetto and attract serious attention and air play on rhythm and blues (R&B) stations as well. Latallaide told Billboard's Phyllis Stark that " we didn't know if they {R&B stations} would pick it up; we just wanted to make them aware of it because it was doing so well in gospel ... {the record's mainstream success} kind of caught us off guard ... {adding nonetheless that the success of "Why We Sing"} was something we had quietly prayed for." Gina Deeming, Gospo- Centric's business affairs manager, further elaborated on the matter to Stark adding that "we basically called it an act of God. It's anointed and it's God's record, and we just try to take care of it."

Numerous program directors from R&B and urban music stations across America mentioned that the positive uplifting message of "Why We Sing" hit a nerve with R&B and urban music listeners. It was such a contrast to the graphically profane and sexually explicit lyrical content of a lot of the current urban music. Franklin explained his appeal to Samuels saying, "Black youth are looking for spirituality and a better way to live. I'm doing what it takes to get the attention of my generation. Kids are killing their parents. They're lost. Someone has to bring them back."

Franklin's hard work paid off as "Why We Sing" won the Gospel Music Song of the Year Award in 1993 and he and his band took home the award for the year's Best New Artist as well. Accolades and recognition did not stop there. The album, Kirk Franklin and the Family, became the first gospel album to go platinum in America. The sales were fueled, in no small part, by the success of "Why We Sing" on the Contemporary Christian, gospel, R&B, and pop charts.

The 1995 Christmas release, Kirk Franklin and the Family Christmas, was also popular and the release of Whatcha' Looking 4, debuted at number 23 on the pop albums chart in 1996. Also that year, Franklin contributed tracks to the Special Gift Christmas compilation, the Soul Train Christmas Starfest, and to the soundtrack for the film Don't be a Menace.

Franklin's previous work served as a prelude to the phenomenally unprecedented success of his 1997 album, God's Property from Kirk Franklin's Nu Nation as the album went gold, selling half a million copies in its first month of release. It topped not only the gospel charts but the R&B charts as well and even managed to make it to number three on the pop charts. The albums success was driven by the smash hit "Stomp," which sampled George Clinton's funky "One Nation Under a Groove" and featured a rap from Cheryl James, also known as Salt, from Salt n' Pepa. Franklin first met God's Property at a gospel concert where the Dallas-Fort Worth Mass Choir and the Family were performing on the same bill. Franklin invited God's Property to sing on Whatcha Lookin' 4 and he then get a song on the soundtrack for Spike Lee's 1997 film Get on the Bus.

Although never released as a single, "Stomp" became the first gospel song to make it into heavy rotation on MTV. "Stomp" also managed to seduce young people who had strayed from the church with its propulsive beats, rhythmic clapping and intoxicating chorus. Defending his use of hip hop to promote the word of God, Franklin told U.S. News & World Report writer, Thom Geier, "there's nthing sinful about the beat. When I've got their attention, I hit them with the holy dope. I'm a holy dope dealer." Linda Searight, the music teacher who formed God's Property in Dallas in 1992 concurred with Franklin and told Morthland, "going into nightclubs, that's just God comin' through, where ever He wants to come through. The nature of what we're doing is outreach. And that means you have to reach out to bring in."

by Mary Alice Adams

Kirk Franklin's Career

Began career performing with the Dallas-Fort Worth Mass Choir; performed on Look How Far We've Come on Savoy, 1991; performed on Another Chance on Savoy, 1993; left to pursue a solo career; signed with Gospo-Centric and released Kirk Franklin and the Family, 1993; released Kirk Franklin and the Family Christmas, 1995; released What'cha Lookin' 4, 1996; contributed to Don't Be a Menace film soundtrack, 1996; contributed to Special Gift, 1996; contributed to Soul Train Christmas Starfest, 1997; contributed to Get on the Bus film soundtrack, 1997; God's Property from Kirk Franklin's Nu Nation, 1997.

Kirk Franklin's Awards

Gospel Music Award for Song of the Year, 1993; Gospel Music Award for Best New Artist, 1993; Platinum certification for Kirk Franklin and the Family, 1993.

Famous Works

Recent Updates

June 27, 2006: Franklin won the BET Award for best gospel artist. Source: E! Online, www.eonline.com, June 30, 2006.

Further Reading

Sources

Visitor Comments Add a comment…

almost 3 years ago

Stir up the good work,keep up the standard and glide beyond stardom. you are an inspiration.

almost 5 years ago

Kirk, please go on. Do your thing. You can not imagine how many times your music has lifted me when I felt like giving up. God bless your heart.

over 5 years ago

I fell in love with kirk Franklin music when I first heard it, I know that he's led by God and I pray that he continues putting them out, cause he's reaching a people that God loves and wants to invite into the kingdom. God bless you Kirk.

over 5 years ago

Did Kirk Franklin attend Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ??

about 6 years ago

what is his sons' name?

over 6 years ago

I would like to know did the woman that plays in Tyler Perry show meet the browns that couple as well was they are your first cd that came out just wondering? hmmmmmmm?

almost 7 years ago

We want Kirk to come to Decatur, IL on June 20, 2008 to do a concert for us. We are a not for profit organization. The African-American Cultural & Genealogical Society of Illinois. We are located between St.Louis and Chicago, Ill. Please let us here from you if you will be on tour in this area, or to perform if you are not booked.

about 7 years ago

His producer, Linda Seawright, was my elementary music teacher at B.F. Darrell. She did MORE than allow me to be in her christmas play, but inspired me to do more.