Kirk Franklin On Why Love Will Lead The Way

The revered gospel legend discusses Verzuz, protest and the church’s role in social change.

Though he can’t be on stage these days because of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, Kirk Franklin hasn’t let that deter him from doing what he can to bring light to those who need and use his platform for social causes. Even while we’re under quarantine, the Grammy-winning gospel artist has been holding virtual performances and keeping the word coming. In May, Franklin and gospel legend Fred Hammond, joined by Bishop T.D. Jakes, Tamela Mann, and Marvin Sapp, assumed the first gospel iteration of Swizz Beatz and Timbaland’s groundbreaking series Verzuz. What came out of their two-hour Instagram Live session was a feeling of joy and healing. 

And now, Franklin has teamed up with Wyclef Jean for the first time for a remix of his chart-topping smash hit “Love Theory,” which was originally released on his 2019 album, Long Live Love. caught up with the revered gospel legend about how the record couldn’t be released during a more needed time and why love will lead the way.

  • You have been very busy in spite of the coronavirus. How have you kept your faith intact amidst the country’s current state between BLM, police brutality and not being able to enjoy worship services together?

    Kirk Franklin: I think that that just shows you what your faith is really made of when you get into seasons like this. It either pushes you closer or further away. That depends on the compass of your heart. It's how a person chooses to respond to these situations when they come. I just want to make sure that I'm being used to be what I'm supposed to be and find it an honor and a privilege to speak to people. Even in the midst of all of these contemporaneous moments that are happening in society, to believe God still loves us and that he's still in control and that he's really trying to get our attention for something great. 

    I'm an advocate for therapy. During the pandemic, I started going back to therapy and just making sure that I’m talking and communicating about the things that hurt me — whether it's social injustice or maybe fears about my family. That, and, you know, just having a good relationship with my wife, Tammy, and to make sure that my relationship with God was never just limited to the church. That has always been a friendship-relationship that has been able to exist outside of the four walls. That has always been important for me and to me.

  • You recently tweeted about how sometimes Black Christians don't speak of their past trauma because of the church’s stance on deliverance from past pains. Can you elaborate on that?

    Franklin: A lot of times, if my honesty is going to be translated into a spiritual immaturity, then what I'll do is I'll just suppress it. You have so many people that may suppress their true feelings because they don't want to be judged for maybe having juvenile faith. That doesn't give a real place for healing and open honesty, where, [for] the Christian community or the church body, that's what it should be. It should be a safe place to fall. Until that happens, we have to address the fact that people really have deep trauma that they never get a chance to bring to the forefront because it doesn't look like what Orthodox say what healing should be. Or even the timing that we think people should be healed on. Some people would have to walk their life with certain pains. Some people’s healing and transformation may take years, and that does not mean that they're not in deep pursuit, you know? We've gotta be able to change that climate so that people feel more comfortable to be honest about their wounds.

  • You originally released ‘Love Theory’ last year. What made you revisit the song now and how did Wyclef Jean’s addition come about? 

    Franklin: That was all [Wyclef]. That was something that he just did on his own. I did a podcast with him a few weeks ago where I was his guest and he surprised me with the remix during the podcast. I was like, ‘bro, you gotta put that out a week. We got to do something with that.’ It just had this organic moment. That was not part of the plan, for me, to release music. [It was] something that just came out. That's been what it is and people really enjoyed it. It's been crazy fun. A big theme of Patti LaBelle and Gladys Knight’s Verzuz set was love, which is something we could all use right now given the current state of the U.S. This was also the focus of your 2019 album ‘Long Live, Love.’ What do you want people to take from that work?

    Franklin: A lot of times we make God to be this protagonist to our hope and our joy, and to be this old, grumpy man with this long beard and white robe. That is so counterintuitive to the heart of God. The heart of God is for us. The reason why we know that he's for us is that he demonstrated that by loving us so much that he gave his only son for us. That is what should be reflected in our society. That if we love, we should be able to show that and that love should be executed. It should be just bigger than words. There should be something tangible connected to us whenever we have a conversation about love. Until we do that, we're just really wasting a lot of time dealing with the fruit and never getting to the root.

  • I feel like that came full circle in your Verzus battle with Fred Hammond. How did that moment feel to create such an experience with him?

    Franklin: I probably would have never done it in a natural state. But because it was framed as a day of healing, that's what gave me the comfort to do it because it was about a bigger agenda. I was happy to be a part of it in that state. It was a memorable moment. I [was] very excited for people to be reminded of how great [Fred Hammond’s] catalog is because he is an incredible gospel artist that has contributed a lot to the genre and to the culture. It was very exciting for people to be reminded of how much of a legend he is. And then to have bishop T.D. Jakes, Tamela Mann, and Marvin Sapp come through just gave it a really good soulful churchy moment. [It] kinda gave it like a revival [feel] and it felt real good. Last year, Sony announced they were producing your biopic. Any updates on that?

    Franklin: It takes a minute to get the right script [and] the right storyline. We're still in the process of doing that. It will come out when it is supposed to come out. We are finishing up the second draft. We've already had the first draft and so now we're just retouching up the second draft. I’m just very grateful for the opportunity, if it's God's will, to be able to show another side of what was happening behind the songs and the moments.

    *The interview was edited and condensed for clarity.

Latest News

Subscribe for BET Updates

Provide your email address to receive our newsletter.

Select the types of notification you would like to receive from us. Please note, you must choose at least one.

By clicking subscribe, I consent to receiving newsletters and other marketing emails. Newsletters are subject to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Users can unsubscribe at any time.