The Song Preacher
Marvin Sapp continues on his musical journey with his third solo release, Nothing Else Matters.
When asked about whether there was pressure coming off of the success of his sophomore 1997 solo project Grace and Mercy, Sapp responds, "Definitely. The funny thing is that the huge success of Grace and Mercy was a bit of a surprise. Most people don't know that I was very ill at that recording. I had a 103 degree temperature and practically no voice." More than many would agree that everything turned out better than ‘alright’, as the project went on to receive numerous award nominations.
Sapp says that doing the studio-recorded Nothing Else Matters brought it's own set of challenges. Having the obvious gift of truly ministering a song, rather than just singing it, in the studio he says, "I just concentrate on the meaning and the lyrics of the song and think about how I would minister to a crowd."
And truly, the Detroit-based minister sings with a fervor that is reminiscent of the rumbling cadence of old school preaching. Somehow each song, no matter how diverse, is shaped to become uniquely his, once his voice grabs ahold.
Myrrh Records assembled a host of top-notch producers for this project. As Marvin lends the richness of his voice to the songs submitted, all of us become the benefactors.
The production still lends itself to a "live" feel, thanks to producers sensitive enough to not cut short on the repetition of the vamps and choruses, as well as the semi-raw background vocals that many have come to love about Sapp's projects.
On "Give Thanks" you will feel the benefit of the collective effort. Sapp practically preaches the verses that encourage us to press on when life's peril catches us by surprise. Percy Bady writes and produces this definite standout, framing Marvin's lead with heavy-hitting, stacked choir vocals.
Fred Hammond shows up on "I Wanna Give You More", a mid-tempo tune that intriguingly teams the two ex-Commissioned members. Sapp slips comfortably into the groove laid by Hammond to make for a nice car jam. "It's always great to work with Fred. He and the rest of the producers on this project were really wonderful to work with. Myrrh really held nothing back in this regard."
If you need a fresh word to encourage you to press on check out the title cut. The words challenge you to remember the purpose of whatever your calling or ministry. Even in the midst of the trying that is sure to come, we are to be reminded that there is greater purpose. In listening to this tune you can practically feel your spirit lift. Israel Simms writes exceptionally while Fred Hammond produces and spices things up with his bass guitar.
Sapp says he decided to add the traditional twist of "You Brought Me" to the mix after hearing a fellow preacher add some flavor to it. "I heard Rev. Darrell Hines kill this song and kind of joked about how it would be nice to do on this project." An arrangement from Bady compliments the familiar gospel hymn and the producer pulls together a group of background vocalists that take you straight to church.
Sapp keeps busy in ministry. Make no mistake, that’s not just singing, but also preaching and community service. He recently received his Doctorate in Divinity and considers himself to be a preacher first and foremost. The singing is a compliment to, or perhaps even a product of the Word that is embedded within. In fact, when asked what music he is listening to right now, he shockingly reveals that he's just "not really into" the music. He quickly adds, "Now if you want to know what preachers I'm listening to..." and continues on to list a litany of preachers he admires along with their respective preaching strengths. It becomes obvious where his real inspiration comes from.
Apart from his vocal prowess, Sapp has also been a leader in the gospel arena in use of technology. Sapp was among the first gospel artists to have a website, where he focuses not just on his own ministry, but on others such as Men of Standard, Fred Hammond, Erica Ellis and Dottie Peoples. It also links to his own personal website, which offers information about his new release.
Sapp believes that we need to keep up in order to continue to be effective in ministry. "The internet offers an opportunity to reach people that we might not otherwise be able to reach. They are projecting that at some point people will be attending church via the internet. I don't think going this far is a good thing, but the internet can definitely be an enhancement to our ministries, as long as it is not intended to be a replacement."
Sapp shares a blessed working relationship with wife and manager MaLinda. They share in ministry with their three young children. With all that going on one has to wonder if he'll be able to fit in time to consider a Commissioned reunion? "Concerning the reunion, I'll say this I have the time! I spoke with Keith [Staten] the other day. He has time. The key to that reunion is Fred! He's the busy one! It would be nice to do!"
But until then, Nothing Else Matters gives us plenty to listen to. And it's no consolation it's better than that! It's Marvin Sapp preaching the Word in song. Or would that be singing the preached word? Doesn't really matter, it's Marvin Sapp in ministry just what we love and need to hear.
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