Pulse of the Kingdom: A Conversation with Victory

The singer deep dives into the importance of authenticity and the unconventional, creative process behind her new album 'Glory Hour.'

Victory has a powerful voice and message that will not be watered down or altered.

The self-proclaimed modern-day Psalmist began singing in the Detroit Boys and Girls Choir at four years old and the rest is history. Eventually relocating to the tri-state area, she began busking in NYC with her siblings until Jay-Z discovered her and signed with Roc Nation. Initially signed as a secular artist and releasing her debut album The Broken Instrument in 2018, she is finally stepping out unapologetically as a Gospel act with her new album Glory Hour.

The 18-track offering places Jesus at the forefront in a relatable, vulnerable, and sonically diverse way. Ranging from stripped-down originals like “I Don’t Have to Pretend,” to repurposed prayers sang over groovy backdrops like “Just Like In Heaven,” to folk-inspired soulful truths like “One Thing,” to classic Gospel hymns like “His Eye Is On The Sparrow,” this album paints a picture of an authentic walk with her Savior, Jesus Christ.

BET spoke with Victory about the inspiration behind the project, her unique creative process, the importance of reintroducing others to Jesus through fresh metaphors, and more.

BET: Glory Hour is your first foray into officially making music as a Gospel artist. Doing this on Roc Nation is previously unheard of. As someone who’s been given a unique platform, who do you look to for guidance in navigating your career as a Christian artist on a mainstream label with other secular artists?

Victory: I look back at history because I don’t see many examples in terms of peers that are positioned the way I’m positioned. I look at Aretha Franklin who from the mainstream, secular markets released her Gospel album Amazing Grace which broke all sorts of records. I look at Whitney Houston, again a secular artist, but from the heritage and legacy of the church. But commercially, she was a secular artist who then went on to create and release the highest selling Gospel album of all time The Preacher’s Wife Soundtrack. I also look at Sister Rosetta Tharpe. She was a rock and roll artist who only sang gospel music but was mainstream. One common denominator of all these figures is that they’re black women and because of what they established, they took a lot of risks and fought to negotiate the right to sing the Gospel as a form of authentic expression of who they were. Basically, they established that if you don’t let me sing the Gospel, you’re not letting me be me and are therefore not welcoming the artistic expression that is me. You can’t chisel away that part of my identity because it is synonymous with who I am. It’s not extinct for us to be sincere Christians as black women. I’m the modern-day representation of that.

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BET: Glory Hour was birthed during the pandemic when you began writing songs from scripture for your own mental health. The concept behind this project is “Every 24-hour time period, we are reminded that darkness exists, but we are also reminded that it cannot remain in the presence of the sun. The sun obliterates darkness, and the sun is a metaphor for Jesus.” When you began writing songs from scripture in the pandemic, at what point in your creative process did the concept of Glory Hour come about?

Victory: Glory Hour is the song of my life. I went through a tragic bicycle accident where I felt like I lost my identity because I lost everything that made me valuable. My jaw was broken, I lost teeth, my face was disfigured, and my arm was broken. I couldn’t sing or play the guitar. There was no hiding my brokenness. In that moment, I felt like that was the death of Victory. I was still alive, but everything that made life worth living was dead. I felt like I didn’t have a future. I was 18 and all of this happened. That’s when I personally experienced, for the first time, the point of a Savior. I had been a Christian, but I didn’t realize the point of the Savior was because He knew that I wouldn’t be strong enough to withstand the darkest parts of life. I wouldn’t be strong enough to withstand death itself and that’s why He came, encountered death, and defeated death so that He could bring me with Him. Not according to my strength, but according to His strength because He is stronger than death. This concept of the sun being stronger than darkness is my own personal testimony of Jesus being stronger than death. His strength is matchless. There is not even a trace of darkness to be found once the sun is on the scene. That was 10 years ago when that happened and so, I started trying to find all these different metaphors to try to explain. I had to go to the grave and watch Him bring me out. I thought I knew, but I didn’t know. Now I know better and there is still so much more I get to learn. Darkness helps to reveal the glory. If you didn’t know darkness existed, you wouldn’t be able to know the appointed time when glory comes on the scene. I’ve been trying to find unique ways that people can relate to, so I can help them taste the glory.

BET: Speaking of finding unique ways to say things, I know that when it comes to being a songwriter, part of your job is to find new, fresh ways to say things that have already been said. In your writing process, what is your approach to finding these new, unique ways to express and give us a new perspective on old ideas?

Victory: It’s funny. My agent played my music the other day for a Gospel music promoter, and he listened to it and said, “This is not Gospel music.” At first, I felt some type of way but then recognized that my goal was not to be recognized as familiar. When people hear something and it sounds like what they’ve heard their whole life, they’re like, “I know that already.” My objective was to bring revelation. I need you to give me a double take. My goal was to make people feel like they were meeting Jesus for the first time and make them say this is a beautiful spirit they want to live with for the rest of their lives. A lot of people don’t have relationships with Jesus because they see how His people act or how Christians are. They think they know already based on other experiences they’ve had, and I wanted this to be a fresh experience and revelation of Jesus and the power of His glory. I wanted to express it how He gave it to me. I didn’t want to be put in a box. I wanted to authentically testify.

BET: You refer to yourself as a modern-day Psalmist and have referenced David as one of the greatest psalmists and singer-songwriters of all time. Not only did David sing songs to the Lord, but he also defeated Goliath. You use that metaphor in your song “David’s Brothers” and bring it into the modern day, speaking of taking out giants by the power of the Holy Spirit. How have you used your songs as a stone and slingshot to defeat the giants in your life?

Victory: It’s every day. I’ve been beat up quite a bit at different parts of my life by circumstances, setbacks, disappointments, life stuff. You might find yourself in positions where you’ve experienced a lot of loss, but you can turn your loss into an asset. The best way to do that is by turning it into a song. You might lose everything, but don’t lose your song. Not only is it a weapon, but it becomes a trophy that you get to raise as a banner when you come out of this trial. It is a beacon of hope that testifies to everyone else going through trials that they can have a song of victory. That song is like your candle of hope. On the album I say, “You take a candle of hope and then you light it with the flame of faith.” It’s this tiny action that you take that you believe that things can get better. You open your mouth, and you sing. It might be a sad song, but the fact that you sing at all is a declaration that your song has not been stolen.

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BET: A standout song on this project is “I Don’t Have to Pretend,” where you say “I don’t have to pretend like everything’s okay. That’s not what Jesus meant when He said to have faith.” I’ve heard you speak about how we tend to focus on the praise report rather than what we’re struggling with in Christian culture. For God to make us whole and not just appear whole, we must be honest with Him. How do you get to that vulnerable, authentic place in your music?

Victory: That is actually my whole secret sauce. Half the song is informed by your disappointments, heartbreaks, losses, moments that you couldn’t help but wail and cry. Without those moments, my songs wouldn’t have gravity. I remember praying and asking God to make my life better. I wrote this song called “Weatherman” on my first project asking God to make my life better. He didn’t make my life better, but He made me stronger. I was able to document that in a truthful way. The song has pain, but it ends in glory. It ends in a hopeful, triumphant manner. That’s my paradigm. We need the honesty and gravitas because it makes this triumphant hope shine through as victory, but you can’t have victory without a battle.

BET: Another standout on this project is “Just Like In Heaven.” It is a groovy track but at its core, lyrically, it is a prayer that is directly inspired by the Lord’s Prayer. You represent it with a catchy melody and beat. With this album, what was your approach behind taking the Word of God, which is never changing, and sonically presenting it in a fresh, new way that is palatable to the next generation?

Victory: That was exactly it, everything you just said. The approach was to take every ounce of education and experience that I’ve had in music and life and use it all to help people hear the Gospel as it is written in the text, but also hear the Gospel as it is proven in my heart. We all know “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” We know that, but most people don’t know that in experience. My goal was to take all my experiences and present something that meets people where they are. Jesus met people where they were. There are all different kinds of styles on this album. The goal is to meet people where they are with the message and sound.

BET: You were signed to Roc Nation as a secular artist. Before Glory Hour, your music was faith-led but more covert. You said you planned on establishing yourself in the industry first and then making more overtly Christian art. What was the reasoning behind the initial reservation of overtly declaring your faith in your music?

Victory: The reasoning at first was that I didn’t think I could do it. I was afraid that people wouldn’t like me, and I was afraid that I would get locked out of markets. I looked at myself as this little black girl that they let have a chance. They invited me and I was so grateful, but you grow out of that stuff. You start to be like nah, I’m blessing them by coming. You start to realize who you are, not just because you’re talented but you realize who you are in Christ. You start to see that there is no greater message that you can be an instrument of amplifying than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. When you rightly see who He is and then you rightly see who you are, you start to shed all these small, poor mindsets of I hope they’ll like me. It took me a minute to grow into that.

BET: You said your parents named you Victory which gave you the responsibility to seek it out in everything you do. You said it’s less about how victorious you can be but more about how you can tap into the victory Jesus already won for you. When creating, how are you able to tap into that God-given victory rather than trying to create in your own strength?

Victory: This goes back to the method I adopted called freedom writing. I coined that term but the method I really gained from my experience writing with Kanye. He prided himself in being a three-year-old meaning he prided himself in not being smart or intellectual. People trying to be great is what makes you not great. When you just agree that God is great and that He made you as a figure of His greatness, now you’re not concerned if you’re being good enough or not. You’re already in agreement that greatness is already there. You just create and whatever comes out, you just let it go. That’s what I witnessed. I took that and found the spiritual significance of that. Before, I used to be so meticulous about writing the most prolific songs, but then I saw that he would just get on the mic for ten minutes and do what sounded like nonsense and say that was the song. Then, I got to see the process of development and taking a raw song. Instead of trying to sit down and figure out how to make a brilliant song, let the Holy Spirit be the song. Don’t quench it. Let it come. Let it flow and don’t undermine it because it sounds weird. Then, from there, you take it through a process of editing. The song “One Thing” on the album, the whole part on there where I’m rapping, was just me praying in tongues. I was flowing in the Spirit and then I went back in and put my life experiences in that exact flow. I respected the song that God gave me already and then I took what He gave me and packaged it. Before, it was my responsibility to be the genius, now I just let the Holy Spirit be the genius. I take what He gives me and craft it. That’s why the album is so unique. I never sat down to write a song. I just sat down to be a vessel.

BET: In the process of making this album during the pandemic, was there a defining moment that was your own personal “Glory Hour” where you were able to see the light of Jesus among all the darkness occurring at that point in time?

Victory: I want to say there were many, but I don’t recall a particular moment. There were so many battles. It was more like a daily thing. Needing Him desperately and then finding Him and then rejoicing and then needing Him desperately again the next day.

You can listen to “Just Like In Heaven” by Victory and more of the newest Gospel, Christian R&B, Christian Hip-Hop, and Afrobeat on BET’s “Pulse of the Kingdom” Playlist, now streaming on Spotify.

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