Friday, September 30, 2005

(My)Hero- Toya

"Hero" is the title of Kirk Franklin's new cd which will be out this Tuesday, October 4th and you can listen to it in its entirety if you click here. Props to our boy Grant for hipping me to this link and further props from now until eternity for giving me the opportunity to listen to this record weeks ago with about 20 other people and one of my personal heroes, Kirk Franklin himself.

Kirk Franklin has been one of my heroes for years because for one, he is SO not perfect. He has made some big boo boos in the past publicly and that is hard for anyone to recover from. However, to me he possesses a heart of David that says "I may have acted a fool and no one may have forgiven me but God but I am still going to do His will until He calls me home." He has never completely bowed out and I admire that greatly.

Grant works for Kirk Franklin down in Dallas and invited me to go to a private listening party for "Hero" at a studio downtown after I helped him work merch at a show a few weeks back. Mind you, I was hot and sweaty from pushing Cd's and tshirts and was pretty bummed that I could not go change before going but I have waited for this for how long? I was not going to let my vanity get in the way. I freshened up the best I could and got down there.

I met Grant there and followed him up the steps. In the doorway sat Kirk at the mixing board. It's so funny when you meet people in person and they look exactly how they look on TV. Sometimes people don't so it trips me out when they do. Grant leaned over and said something in Kirk's ear about my helping that night and Kirk beckoned me over. I rarely get nervous around famous people because they are famous. I get nervous only around people that have greatly affected my life. Like when I met Jon Foreman from Switchfoot I remember thinking that this is the man that has written the soundtrack of my very life. This is the man that gave me "Learning to Breathe". The gift of musical expression is huge to me; it's incredible to meet someone that has written your very thoughts without even knowing you.All ready to give him a firm handshake, Kirk pulled me closer and gave me a good brotherly hug and said thank you. And what did I do? Only get some black girl makeup on the shoulder of his crisp white tee. "Oh Toya!" I thought. I was nervous enough as it was but this? Oh man! Hoping that no one noticed or knew that I was the culprit, I quickly made my way to the back of the studio, every now and again looking at the brown chin print that I left on his right shoulder. On my way back I passed some of his background singers who are some of the most beautiful people I have ever seen. They truly seem like a family and it was neat to see how they all encouraged each other when each others solos came on. Kirk looked at them all as if he was a proud father. The singing they did on this record is nothing short of phenomenal.

I stood amongst the background singers, studio musicians and other industry types and tried to contain myself as Kirk played the duet "Why" that he recorded with the original genius himself, Stevie Wonder (other guests include, Sonny from P.O.D., Ty Tribbett, J Moss, and Marvin Winans). If this song does not get a Grammy or at least get nominated, I am standing outside of the offices of the RIAA with picket signs in both hands. The entire record is Grammy worthy.

This record is already a part of my life's soundtrack. What makes it different from Room For Squares and Learning to Breathe is that those records described where I am or have been as a person. What is so refreshing about Hero is that it depicts where I want to be. While so many think that Kirk Franklin is only a glorified choir director or the ultimate hype man, he is one of the most prolific songwriters of our generation. On this record I realized that he has a way of articulating and speaking to the hearts of women that is unreal. In particularly, there is a song called "Imagine Me" that thank the Lord I didn't hear while in the studio because when I heard just a clip of it at home, I cried like a baby.

With just women singing on the verses on top of a haunting but beautiful piano driven melody, some of the lyrics are

I imagine me, letting go of all of the ones that hurt me
because they never did deserve me
can you imagine me
Saying no
to thoughts that try to control me
Remembering all you told me
Lord can you imagine me
Over what my mama said and
Healed from what my daddy did and
I want to live and not read that page again
Imagine me being free
trusting you totally
finally I can imagine me
i admit it was hard to see you being in love with someone like me
finally I can imagine me

(I particularly love the LTD throwback at the end of this song. There are some good feeling throwback joints on this record as well).

If you are looking for songs to belt out in praise and worship to the Lord, this is your record. If you are looking for songs to jam to with an uplifting message, this is your record. If you are brokenhearted and are at your wits end, this is DEFINITELY your record. This record not only reminds me of how great God is but just how good music can really be and how it is meant to lift your spirit. Musically it is so solid. I later spoke with him about how sometimes music, particularly some gospel music, misses the mark of just being musically excellent. The lyrics may be sound but the music doesn't move you. This project is an excellent exception.

After we were finished hearing the record, Kirk expressed his heart's desire for God to have His way with what He wants this record to accomplish and we collectively prayed and asked God to do so. It was incredible. I know first hand that God is going to use this record to set a lot of people free; free from shame, free from depression, free from pain, free from religiously thinking that God is all fire and brimstone and not a loving Father who longs to comfort and bless us. There is so much joy in this record that although I was with a lot of people that I did not know while listening to it, I couldn't help but close my eyes and dance. After Tuesday, I don't see this CD leaving my CD player anytime soon.

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