Focusing on the Ministry
With the recent release of Relationship, Nancey Jackson has re-emerged on the Gospel scene in a big way. The project serves as a proverbial “coming of age” for Jackson and easily establishes her as a dominant force within urban Gospel. Jackson is certain of her direction and purpose and makes it evident on this new project. However, she wasn’t always sure that urban Gospel was the path that she would travel.
In 1997, Jackson released her first project with Harmony Records titled Free (Yes I’m Free). Jackson notes that she’s experienced many changes since that release. “On that project, I was just feeling my way,” says Jackson. “I knew that I wanted to do urban Gospel. However, I wasn’t sure of my direction with it. However, now I clearly know my niche. I’m spiritually on another level. I’ve matured as a singer and as a person.”
Her sophomore project, titled Relationship, is a musically diverse effort. “This project has many different vibes and best expresses me vocally,” says the New Jersey native. Ranging from jazz to urban sounds which Jackson refers to as “holy-hop”, she has compiled an effort that taps into various areas of her musical experience. “I grew up listening to a lot of jazz.. My parents surprisingly let us listen to non-sacred music. Songs in that day were sincere and not as explicit as the songs today,” states Jackson.
Influenced by such divas as Chaka Khan, Sarah Vaughn, and Aretha Franklin, Jackson started singing in the church at the age of seven years old. Citing her first song as “I Feel Like Pressing My Way”, she regularly sang in her father’s church in New Jersey. Jackson’s first recorded performance was with Jeff Banks and the Revival Temple Mass Choir. As she grew, her musical tastes continued to expand, and she soon began regularly working with Rev. Milton Biggham, en route to her current place as solo artist with Harmony Records.
As today‘s musical paradigm in Gospel shifts toward urban, Jackson is quickly becoming part of this progressive and, at times, controversial movement. She is certain that this is an effective area of Gospel music and sees the tremendous ministry opportunities in this avenue. “The spirit of God has no barriers. If the anointing is in you, God will break the judgments and the suspicion,” proclaims Jackson. She has a strong passion for this genre. “People can’t limit God. We have a responsibility to reach the drug dealers and people on the street. As long as the message is there, this will be the way to reach them,” states Jackson.
With this purpose in mind, Jackson sought to create an album that would have a strong urban presence. The new release features an all-star list of urban producers including Fred Hammond, Tonéx, Dawkins and Dawkins, J. Moss, and Frankie Cutlass. Uniquely, Jackson never considered a secular producer to give her an urban sound. “This was an amazing process. I looked at the producers’ previous work and what they had done both lyrically and musically. I asked God to allow me to work with them and it was God’s favor that caused it all to happen,” states Jackson. And she speaks highly of her experience with these artist / producers. “They were absolutely great. They worked within the budget. God knows they deserved more than they got. They respected me as a new artist and were more than happy to work with me,” exclaims Jackson.
As a new artist, Jackson is open and honest about her experience as an artist in a unique industry. She recognizes that the most important aspect of her career is her relationship with God. “How can you represent someone you don’t know?” asks Jackson. “I didn’t realize that this was the way for me to go until I got serious about the fact that God birthed me with a purpose. We [as artists] must be responsible to fulfill God’s call. People can easily tell when you’re not living the life. It is important that we really know God.”
Jackson has a strong passion for her work within the industry. More importantly, she has a passion for God. “I tell people don’t believe the hype. God is not concerned about autographs or record sales. God wants to know if we will be obedient to Him. I knew that I had to go through something and I had to endure. I don’t deserve God’s favor but yet He gives it to me. God is awesome,” proclaims Jackson.
While faced with the prospect of unprecedented success, Jackson is quick to stay grounded. Jackson maintains an unusual yet refreshing transparency that makes her real to those around her. “People are often surprised at my transparency. To me, there’s no shame in deliverance. God delivered me from child abuse, low self-esteem, and feelings of inadequacy. I’ve got to be real whether I’m singing to five or five thousand,” says Jackson.
As a new artist, Nancey Jackson has encountered a number of challenges and is uniquely open about them. “I’m not crazy about the hype that goes along with being an artist. Folks tend to think that you’re a star,” states Jackson. In addition, Jackson finds there to be a class of separation within the industry. “A lot of folks seem to think that we’re in competition. We’re all on the same team. There’s also little encouragement from the veterans. I’m willing to admit that I don’t know everything. If there’s something that I’m not doing, extend some knowledge. However, I’ve realized that a lot of this deals with spiritual warfare, which has served to mature me,” continues Jackson.
As Jackson views her future, she plans to continue to focus on ministry. She’s also interested in having rap sessions with youth and participating in various outreach programs. Jackson states it this way: “I know who I am and I want to help others deal with their issues.”
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