True to previous projects, this new one, Hello Fear, isn't just about the soulful music and innovative beats. Rather, it's the combination of his melodies and grooves with his transparency, his honesty, and his accessible story that draws us in to Franklin's world.
The project title references the fact that we all deal with fears of various sorts, and that for Kirk Franklin, the time for turning and facing fears is now. The transparency is palpable.
Joining Franklin on production is longtime collaborator and keys man, Shaun "Harold" Martin. Vocalists Isaac Carree, Anaysha Figueroa, Nikki Ross, Charmaine Swimpson and Eric Moore add their harmonies to nearly every cut.
Joining Franklin on the project are guests that include Marvin Sapp and Beverly Crawford (on the traditional, organ-infused slow burner, "The Altar").
Then there's a whole slew of names on the long time coming reprise of "Something About The Name Jesus Part 2". The original, appear on Franklin's Nu Nation Project from 1998, has been in repeat play mode for many since that it first came out. Back again for the reprise are Rance Allen and Isaac Carree (whose group Men of Standard was featured on the original), with Marvin Winans and John P. Kee also in the mix.
Newcomer and fast riser Mali Music is tapped to join Franklin on "Give Me", adding his distinctive delivery to this soundtrack to prayer for God's strength and wisdom. Insistent snare percussion overlays high register keyboard stylings, making the sound stick.
Not many will sleep on the inspirational "Today", an infectious contemporary cut that combines beat with melody. Raise your hands in the air everybody!!
The mid tempo urban radio single "I Smile" is typical Kirk Franklin, his compositional imprint all over it. The song is "a declarative statement that I'm not going to live my life based on how I feel. I will live my life based on God's Word", says Franklin.
"I Give" is the other song making the radio rounds. The laid back ballad puts the focus on soft harmonies, with Franklin intoning declarations and promises from God's Word. "'I Am' is about exchanging all of my weaknesses for God's strength. This song is also about declaring what God says about me and not my situation. As we daily transform to God's image, we no longer identify with who we were, but who we are becoming", says Franklin.
Hello Fear is another step in the spiritual and musical journey of Kirk Franklin; it succeeds on both levels.
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Fo Yo Soul Entertainment / Verity Gospel Music Group
— reviewed by Stan North —
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