Focused on Taking the Gospel to the Mainstream
It wasn't long ago that the group Dawkins and Dawkins was the subject of one of those "whatever happened to ?" conversations. After two impressive albums on Benson Records in the early 90s, Eric and Anson Dawkins seemed to be as missing in action as Transformation Crusade, Surrender, Rite Choice and other acts produced by big name Gospel artists that never made it past their first or second project.
With last year's release of Focus, Dawkins and Dawkins first project on Harmony Records, any questions of the Dawkins brothers' whereabouts were laid to rest. They are on the forefront of the urban gospel movement.
Featuring the hit singles "Need to Know" and "Wrapped Up," and production by some of the hottest names in both gospel and R&B music, Focus was a pleasant surprise even to those who remember bobbing their head to "Everybody Needs Somebody" from Dawkins and Dawkins' self-titled debut.
According to Anson Dawkins, the time he and Eric spent between their second and third album developing their craft, growing spiritually and getting prepared for what God had in store for Dawkins and Dawkins made Focus more than an album title.
"Focus was chosen as the project's title before the song was written," he said. "When we began working on this album, everything was starting to come together. We could see things more clearly as far as life in Christ is concerned and as far as direction and vision is concerned."
Both got married during their recording hiatus and credit that for helping them to become more focused. "One thing that I've found out is that your family, especially your wife, can make you or break you as far as your ministry is concerned," Anson said. "I can't effectively minister if I have a hard time ministering in my house. So I have to spend time building up my family spiritually. It's a challenge, but it builds character and it builds maturity."
Raised the sons of an Ohio pastor, Eric and Anson sang in their first group-- a trio led by their mother-- when they were five and six years old. Early influences included Andrae Crouch, Rance Allen, The Winans and, later, Commissioned. A relationship they developed later with Fred Hammond led to their first recording contract with Benson Records.
"The first two albums did reasonably well," said Anson. "Not as well as we would have liked, but it was a new flavor for Benson and they really didn't know what to do with it. So in essence, those two albums got lost in the shuffle. But it was a good thing for us to get our feet wet and for everyone to get to know who we were."
Harmony Records became Dawkins and Dawkins new home as the result of a relationship their manager has with Harmony artist Deniece Williams. According to Anson, Harmony's connection with Sony Music and Relativity Records seemed a perfect fit for their "rhythm and praise" style of music.
"We felt that Harmony had the right machines in place to have the ability to push our music into the mainstream market," Anson explains. "The timing was right and we were ready to start with a new company."
The urban airplay garnered by Focus' lead single "Need To Know," confirmed Harmony's ability to push Dawkins and Dawkins into the secular market, something that Anson believes is not merely desirable, but necessary.
"We definitely are trying to get urban airplay because we want to reach an audience that doesn't know about this kind of gospel," he told GospelFlava. "Lyrically, a lot of the songs out now are really talking about nothing. They're not promoting anything that's healthy, anything that's godly or anything that positive. We have something that's on par musically that we believe is anointed by God and ordained to reach people who are not necessarily church goers or even practicing Christians. We want to give them something to grab hold to with our music, something that ignites a fire in them and causes them to understand that they don't have to fake the funk. They can live it for real."
Dawkins and Dawkins began calling the music they make "rhythm and praise" in 1995 and the term has caught on with the gospel music industry. "We coined it to categorize what we do," Anson explained. "Gospel rhythm and blues is an oxymoron. To say that you have good news and then you're going to sing the blues about it makes no sense. So we wanted to have rhythm and praise. It fits our music and it fits a lot of things that folks like Jimmy (Moss), Kirk (Franklin), Trin-i-tee 5:7 and other groups with a hip hop, R&B, urban flavor are doing."
Anson and Eric shared the production duties on Focus with a number of hot producers including Rodney Jerkins (who rapped on their first album when he was just 14), Fred Hammond, J. Moss and Fred Jerkins. However, Anson says that the concept and the "vibe" of the album are exclusively Dawkins and Dawkins.
"We had a vibe of where we wanted to go and who we wanted to work with," he said. "We did vocal arrangements and wrote lyrics to all the songs and brought the ideas together with our producers. The way that we tend to work is that someone sends us a tight track, we write to it and then we go in the studio and record it."
Eric and Anson co-wrote with all their producers except J. Moss. "Jimmy has a plethora of tracks and songs that we really liked already so we decided to do his material," said Anson. "With everyone else, we wrote to the tracks they had that inspired us.'
While the duo believes that the entire project is tight, Anson calls it "a revolutionary sound with a message that's applicable to today,' one song on the album stands out for them.
"'Praisin' on my mind' has a particularly special place in our hearts because of the words to the song and because our lifestyles are about praise and bringing glory to God, said Anson."
Although Dawkins and Dawkins doesn't expect to have a new project on the market before 2000, that doesn't mean that they won't be heard from . In addition to producing two tracks on the upcoming Nancey Jackson project, they plan on developing a camp where new artists can develop their musical skill, learn about the music industry and learn to develop godly character.
"Creation is waiting for us to stand up and take our rightful place and be the called out ones and do what God has called us to do," said Anson. "It's happening and gospel music is going to blow up."
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