2019 Super Bowl Gospel Celebration
Kirk Franklin performs onstage at the 2019 Super Bowl Gospel Celebration at Atlanta Symphony Hall on January 31, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Rick Diamond

Kirk Franklin Wants To Use 'Long Live Love' As A Musical Weapon Against Fear

In 1993, Kirk Franklin And The Family’s debut album changed contemporary gospel. The genre wasn’t unfamiliar with crossover success; Andrae Crouch infused new life into the genre-blending gospel with Christian, R&B and even pop. By the early ‘90s, gospel acts like Bebe and Cece Winans enjoyed a steady presence at Urban radio with songs that leaned more inspirational than straight up spiritual. But Kirk And The Family bridged the gap between gospel and secular even further, putting praise to hip-hop and new jack swing samples and updating tried and true classics with catchy but emotive arrangements. By the late 1990s, Franklin had revolutionized the business. He was the first gospel artist to reach platinum sales with his debut album, the first gospel artist on MTV, the first gospel artist with a No. 1 pop hit - the first gospel artist to become a bonafide mainstream superstar. He moved like a hip-hop artist but walked with Jesus, and while it confused and upset church elders, it opened the word of God up to a segment that the old time hymns simply couldn’t read.

The multi-talented artist is now 26 years into his career, and facing the same challenges of staying true to his artistry and message in a changing musical landscape as his peers on the secular side of the charts. Gospel artists who broke down barriers into mainstream music in the ‘90s and ‘00s are mostly back to serving their gospel core, and finding their path musically as gospel music is in the midst of a similar genre identity crisis as R&B. But while Franklin may not be in as big a spotlight as he once was, he’s still the biggest and one of the most visible gospel stars of our generation and hasn’t slowed down with his music or his energy.

On May 31, 2019, Franklin released his 13th studio album, Long Live Love, and will begin touring for the album on Thursday, July 11. VIBE joined him for an intimate listening of the new album, and then Naima Cochrane talked to the prolific writer, producer, and Sunday Best executive producer and host about going back to his origins, the black church’s relevance for black millennials, and False Evidence Appearing Real.

VIBE: Your run of 26 years in the game is amazing, and to be commended. At the listening party last night, you brought up the theme of going back to your roots a few times. You said you went back to your childhood home and your school. You talked about stripping back your production methods, and taking it back to the days of The Family, and even mentioned that your partner (Ron Hill, president of Franklin’s Fo Yo Soul Entertainment) told you to pull the “old Kirk” out. What does that mean? What has inspired that reach back to the origins and the roots for this album?

Kirk Franklin: I know that for (Ron), his statement had to do more with the sonic sound, kind of more of the texture. Not the heart behind the music… because you know I’m the same Kirk. I’m steadily trying to grow in my faith and I want to be a sincere dude about the God I preach about and about the God I love, so it wasn’t about that. It had more to do with just the texture. It’s the DNA of a song. Some songs may be more driven by a piano than like an 808, or by the lyrical content, or the way that the choir is singing. So, that’s what he meant, and it was very difficult at first like I said [at the listening session]. … But I really really love the song now because I had to push, you know what I mean, I had to really push through all of that. Does that answer your question?

That answers part of it. What inspired you to go back home and start over again for this album? Was that about the sonics, or was that more about wanting to rekindle something?

That had more to do with the innocence of what I come from; I wasn’t trying to be no artist [at that time of my life]. I wasn’t trying to be no national name or nothing. I didn’t have that idea to even think that was possible. It had more to do with me just really… going through the storms of life. And so, I wanted to go back to those places and those moments in my life when the storm was real for me. Where before I’m doing a concert in London, or before I’m on a stage at an awards show, I want to go back to an area you know I was broke and strugglin’. Had no money or nothin’, and just kinda sit there and feel what that felt like again.

I imagine that might be a necessary reset when you’ve been doing what you do for 26 years. You get so far away from that.

What it does is that – what is very interesting is that those are places I really prefer. I feel more comfortable and at home in those places of my childhood and the places of innocence, than flying to New York or L.A. Those things are great, but I am most comfortable when I am going up to my old middle school, and sitting on the football field and just being reflective. Or going down by the river that runs through the city we live in and just remember - that moment. Those are my sanctuaries; that’s my church.

You also said you don’t go back that often.

I don’t get to go back as often as I like. The truth is, I probably go once a month, but I wish I could go back more.

You said you’ve been struggling with anxiety for several years and that part of it was wrapped up in pride and fear of younger artists coming behind you. We think about that more in terms of secular music, but I never considered that perspective in gospel. How do you move yourself out of that and just focus on Kirk?

Yeah, or, even focus on God, right?

Focus on God, you’re right.

Yeah, yeah. I think that statement was inclusive of a lot of things. It had to do with my age, and had to do with are people tired of what I have to say, or just the world that we’re living in. And one thing that I didn’t say that is inclusive of that anxiety - and I think you heard me say this (at the listening event) – just about the PTSD that a lot of men of color in America go through. When we go through being rejected and abandoned like I did as a kid, you have a lot of fear and anxiety issues that you didn’t even know that’s what it was defined as. You live your life a lot of times living with the ghost of fear. That’s why I called (my 2011 album) Hello Fear. I called it that because that has been a narrative kinda, of my life; this anxiety connected with fear. Fear of death, fear of getting older, fear of younger artists coming, you know. It’s almost like when you struggle with fear, fear connects itself to anything. So, it’s not just necessarily exclusive to younger artists coming up, that’s not it at all. It’s just a combination of anything that fear can grab its hand on.

Like, one of the acronyms of fear – False Evidence Appearing Real. So, when that spirit of fear comes on you, it can just attach itself to anything. That can breed anxiety. For like the last eight or nine years, I’ve struggled with it more than I did as a kid, but even as a kid I had it.

But you were able to recognize it a little bit more as you got older?

I’m able to recognize it more. To recognize the genesis of it, and to be able to connect the dots of why.

I do appreciate that you said that you’ve been in therapy for many years. I think it’s so important that our black men know that’s okay.

Yes ma’am. Yes ma’am.

This album, you focus on love. Long Live Love, and your lead single is “Love Theory.” Why this focal point now?

Well, one thing that I’ve learned is that love and fear cannot occupy the same space. So, one of the weapons to defeat fear is love. Learning the power of love and being loved by the creator of love. Being loved by God himself. “For God so loved the world,” knowing that I’m included in that statement, and that I’m not an afterthought, and that I’m gonna be okay. God is my protector, whom shall I fear? And those truths give you the hope to be able to make it another day, to be able to persevere.

You said your most personal and most challenging song is “Forever/Beautiful Grace,” right?

Yes.

And you also added your own voice at the end of the song, which you don’t often do.

That’s the “Beautiful Grace” part. It’s almost like two songs in one, I guess. I sang it because it would have been difficult for anybody else to sing that and it ring true. Like, I had to do it. There was no one else that could really do that part.

But I think it’s beautiful. It conveys some rawness and vulnerability, which I think really helps bring the message of the song through more clearly, so I think that was a perfect choice.

Thank you.

You also said that this time you wrote a lot of the music before you actually did the track. Before you went in to record, the songs themselves were done already, and that’s kind of new for you. When a lot of people think of you they think of the production first, so for you to start from the lyrical content first, how is that different for you?

What’s funny is that rarely do I ever work on a track before writing the song in the first place, but this time I was very intentional to make sure that I did that with the entire body of work. A lot of times I’m writing and producing at the same time. And this time, I had everything completely done before I even considered trying to work on the production. And that was a very different process because I wanted to make sure that the songs speak life by themselves. Like, I didn’t want them to need any help, I didn’t want the song to need help. And we narrowed it down to ten songs. We didn’t want an album full of songs. Ten songs that were intentional. Because I had on my phone, I had about three years of ideas, because it’s been about three and a half years since my last album, so I had about three and a half years of song ideas. ...I just wanted to be very intentional. Didn’t want a lot of fluff. Wanted to make sure that what I was saying was coming straight from God’s heart to people.

You, Yolanda Adams, and Mary Mary ushered in a whole new era of gospel. For the first time it was possible for gospel artists to go all the way mainstream, to rack up platinum albums. And then when Andraé Crouch died in 2015, you wrote that you were worried that now worship leaders were focused a little too much on the stardom, and that something had been lost in terms of how gospel music actually impacted people. Do you still feel that way? Are you keeping that in mind when you’re recording?

Yeah, and that’s pretty cool that you did your little research on me. That’s pretty fresh (laughs). I don’t think that we are immune to the same kind of tricks that affect anybody that has a microphone. Anyone that has a microphone, that temptation for the voice to be bigger than the message is always there. And I think especially with people in my genre, it is imperative that we are intentional in making sure that people hear God more than they hear us. That takes a great sense of self-denial.

On the R&B side there’s a question about what happened to “real” R&B, and I know that conversation is being mirrored in gospel. People feel like there’s more praise and worship (a style born of the evangelical church with simple, repetitive lyrics) coming through than actual true hymns and gospel songs that reflect scripture. How do you feel about that? Because some point to you as one of the people who started that transition. Do you agree with that?

I think that first of all, whatever touches a person’s heart and causes them to want to be closer to God more than they are now, that’s a beautiful thing. That should be happening and that should be allowed. If people are growing in their faith, and if they’re going to gospel music, or if they’re going to worship and praise music that may lean a little bit more contemporary Christian in its style and format, that’s cool, too, because I think the main agenda should always be the word of God in this genre. The number one agenda should not be the industry, and what’s poppin’ on the charts, and what’s the new wave. I think that all of those things must be secondary, even if they have to be included at all. I think that the bottom line; I am saying that in within that context, there is something very beautiful about the experience of our people. There is something very beautiful about the experience of African Americans, and the struggle and the sound and the culture we bring to the table should not have to be left on the table when it comes to the music that we do.

Do you ever take credit for getting young adult choirs poppin’ in the church? (laughs)

No. Young adults poppin’ in the church? I think that is so cute.

The young adult choirs! Listen, there’s a whole generation of people out there who were more engaged in their choir because they were able to do Kirk Franklin and the Family music or Kirk Franklin music. I’ve seen it stated again and again. I have to imagine people have said that to you.

I have a question for you.

Sure.

What do you think happened? What do you think happened to the engagement of people in gospel music? Not necessarily Kirk Franklin, but just the engagement of gospel music. Like, in your view of a person who talks about music and culture professionally, and also somebody who’s somewhat familiar with the gospel music genre, what do you think happened?

It seems like it’s not even so much – just from my anecdotal perspective, because this is a conversation I do have – it’s not even about the engagement with the music, but an engagement with the church altogether. I’m GenX, I’m 43, but people who are a little bit younger than me - millennials, many of whom grew up in the church - as soon as they were old enough to make their own decisions they left. And I think that leaving the church for them also meant leaving things of the church, like the music. And I think at the same time, once we came out of 2010 or so, we stopped having as much gospel on the mainstream charts as we did in the ‘90s through the early 2000s. You know you, Yolanda, the Mary’s, Ty (Tribbett), etc, you guys were sometimes popping up on the R&B chart or the adult urban chart, but mostly you were back on the gospel charts, so I also think there wasn’t as much crossover as there was when I was growing up. I think it’s kind of those two things combined. But also Kirk, in my opinion, there’s been a loss of musicality on the gospel side and the R&B side, because they used to feed into each other. So, on the R&B side we don’t have as many producers coming out of the church, we don’t have as many singers coming out of the church. And on the church side we don’t have as many people involved in the music ministry of the church – they might play a track, there might just be a couple of stars who do the singing and the playing, but I don’t see as many people getting trained up in the music ministry and I think that affects both sides.

You did very good. Very, very good. What do you think can happen to change that around?

For those of us who are a little older, we need to have a little bit more patience with those who are younger instead of just dismissing them as “you don’t know nothin’,” or being frustrated with them. But I also think there has to be some reach out on both sides; I think those who are younger have to be a little more interested to engage the older folks, and the older folks have to be a little bit more willing to reach back. I think that used to happen more, and it doesn’t - there’s a disconnect. There’s a generational disconnect now.

Yes. I totally agree. And I definitely agree with you that there is a lack of interest in all things about faith when it comes to millennials.
But I also see it even in the 40-year-olds, don’t you?

I think we let life get in the way a little bit. For example, I’m part of the young adult choir at my church, but our choir has the most fluctuating membership because as soon as life stuff starts happening, we leave, we come back. We leave, we come back. We take a break from church, we come back. It’s not as consistent for us. You know, for our parents and our grandparents, no matter what else was going on, you went to church. No matter what else was going on, you went to choir rehearsal, you went to bible study. And for us it’s like, I don’t feel like it this week, I’m not going. I think there’s maybe that change in priority. I don’t really know how to shift that back, but that’s what I see happening. For us, we go (to church) to get fed, we go to get nurtured, but it’s not like this happens and everything else happens around this the way it used to be for older generations.

That’s good.

That’s my thought. See, now look we done flipped the interview around and now you interviewing me. But I love it.

It’s a good talk, though, man.

I appreciate it! But that also leads me another question: you were the voice of connecting young people to gospel. And now you’re an elder statesman in the game - of sorts; gospel artists tend to have a much longer career than mainstream artists, but now you’re an elder.

Yeah.

Does that change how you approach your music and your career, and how you talk to people, and just how you move through your career?

You know, I’m gonna be very candid with you, I’m still trying to figure out what that looks like. I even try to do it even from the physicality of it. Like I still run around and dance on stage and I be trying to figure out like ‘Okay, what dance can I do?’

You sure do! I saw you at Essence Festival last year with The Roots, and you were killin’ it!

But you have no idea how painstaking it is to try to figure, okay, can I do the Whoa? You know, just ‘cause I can do the Whoa, can I do the Whoa? Or am I gonna look like the old pawpaw tryin’ to do... you know. I’m at a weird place of not knowing how to be my age.

I think that all of us in our forties are in that place, because we’re not the same forties that forty was twenty years ago, right?

Exactly. I hear you. So, it’s like, I’m trying to figure out what that looks like. Now, when it comes to showing love to people and you know just giving advice, that’s something I would have done in my thirties, I did it in my twenties. So, I’m not being any different. I’m always trying to figure it out. I’m still trying to figure it out. I’m literally still trying to figure it all out.

Why is Sunday Best coming back now? (Ed. note: the show returns to BET on Sunday, June 30.) Was it time? Do we need it?

I think that, you know, it always depends on what type of ambassador you have in the house that fights for certain content that is more a niche in its DNA. With the changes at Viacom and the things that were happening at BET, you still gotta have somebody in there fighting for the things that may not look as mainstream, but there’s an audience that is underserved. And to see the viability of that underserved audience. Sometimes it takes that. So, we can stand on the side of the road, kind of like what is happening with that boy and his TV show Star.

Oh, yeah, Lee Daniels.

Yeah, he’s trying to get the word out there that they’re fighting for it, but if the corporates at Fox want to move something different, he can yell as much as he wants to and if the audience doesn’t yell along with him…

Mmmm, right.

I think that the audience yelled loud for Sunday Best, because there’s nothing in the marketplace.

Tell me about “Strong God”: the motivation, and the inspiration and the why.

I think that one of the greatest misconceptions about gospel music from those that listen to it – and even at times those that do it – is that its agenda always has to be vertical, that there can never be a horizontal social commentary connected with the gospel, when at the same time one of the biggest modus operandi of Jesus Christ was the poor and the less fortunate and the widows. And his level of frustration was the oppression that the government and the religious leaders put on those people. So, to have social commentary in a gospel song for me is very important. Even, you know it’s been part of my career, I was doing it back with “Lean on Me.”

You were even doing it with “Revolution.”

I’ve always enjoyed having social commentary, because I think it’s important. And then it broadens – and when I say “broaden” I don’t mean radio airplay and crossover – it just broadens the idea of what gospel music can be and who God is.

Okay, last question. How have you felt about people calling you the Gospel Puff Daddy?

The gospel Puff Daddy?

Yeah. Did you know that’s your nickname?

They can call me whatever they want to call me. They call me the gospel DJ Khaled…you know I’ve heard it all. I’m cool. Whatever you wanna call me. I don’t care.

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Interview: Suave House Founder Tony Draper Links With Celebs Like 2 Chainz, G Herbo and Nick Cannon To Feed Their Cities

The harrowing COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately disrupted Black communities across the United States with cities like Chicago being among the hardest hit. Throughout the year, artists from the city have stepped up and held socially distanced food drives and PPE donations across the city’s South and West sides. With his deep ties to Chicago since the early 90s, Suave House Records founder/entrepreneur Tony Draper, alongside NBA veteran Ricky Davis, made the Chi’ their next stop as part of the nationwide Feed Your City Challenge this past October 17th at the Pullman Park Community Center.

The chilly, yet bright and sunny Saturday saw hundreds of people drive through the parking lot of the complex, receiving groceries from the many volunteers, gathered from across the city. Masked up with PPE in the trenches with the civilians were local natives and celebrity supporters like Chitown’s Grammy winning producer/music executive No ID, rap star G-Herbo, new rapper Queen Key, NBA star Jabari Parker to media/music entertainer Nick Cannon. Draper and Davis were handing off items and loading boxes of farm-fresh produce and meats in the trunk of cars, and offloading the 95,000 pounds of food to feed 7,000 residents. While they were not in attendance, Common with Jhene Aiko and Social Justice Collective donated funds for the free groceries.

“You can’t lead the people until you feed the people. We’re out here in the community in a real way. People always talk about what’s going on in Chicago and these are the things going on in Chicago. Positive things for the community during a time like this. People coming together and it’s a wonderful event,” said Cannon.

For Draper, bringing the Feed Your City Challenge to Chicago and being able to pull it off successfully was crucial because October 17th, marks the 24th anniversary of the death of one of Chi’s most influential DJs, Rapmaster Pinkhouse, who passed away in 1996. “It feels like myself and my partner [Ricky] Davis coming to Chicago and partnering with Common, No ID, Jhene Aiko, Nick Cannon, G-Herbo, Jay Allen, [local FM radio] Power 92 and Pat Edwards was a sign from God that it’s meant to happen on this day. Even though Pinkhouse is gone, he’s still influencing the south side of Chicago and he’s still sending us blessings. We had to pull it off, we had to,” Draper said with conviction. 

Meanwhile, Power 92.3’s DJ Pharris, DJ Nehpets, DJ Commando, DJ Amaris and Hot Rod were on the 1s and 2s while Parker, Hot Rod, G-Herbo, and community activists Joey G and Nico Naismith played basketball with the kids. A nonprofit Hoop Bus was set up with a small hoop with Black Lives Matter symbols and the names of victims who were killed by police officers. 

G-Herbo, who has been volunteering his time to the kids of Chicago throughout 2020 says that events like this are important to build and strengthen Black unity across the city. “It’s beyond just being able to feed and provide, it’s allowing people to feel unity in the city. This is the city coming together and a lot of important and powerful people coming from the city, all walks of life coming together for a positive reason and that’s what it’s all about.” When asked if this event defied the stigma of Chicagoans not being unified, Herbo exclaimed, “Absolutely! We unified right now and it’s only gon’ get better, so we’re just trying to lead by example and make this normal. This is not just an event, this gotta be the normal for guys like myself and for the city.”

And the people who showed up to receive their free groceries were more than appreciative. Takara, a mother from the Southside of Chicago says that while she found out about the food drive at the last minute,“It’s a lot of food out here, a lot of good people out here and it’s something that we need. Events like this are very necessary and it’s filling the need for families who can’t feed their children during these times. I wish I could have volunteered and done something more, but we need this.”

In a one-on-one with VIBE, the legendary Tony Draper talks about his connections to Chicago, the importance and impact of the Feed Your City Challenge, the role celebrities play in activism, and more. 

VIBE: Earlier you shared that Oct. 17th was also the day that Rapmaster Pinkhouse passed away. For the younger readers who might not know who Rapmaster Pinkhouse is, could you share who he was and why he was so important to Chicago?

Draper: For young people that don't understand how music was heard back then, there was no social media [in the early 90s], there was no Instagram, so you had to get your record to the hottest person in the city. That person had to make a decision about whether it was good or not. And if that person touched your record in Chicago, that person would spread, it was automatic. That’s what happened to a young Tony Draper with 8Ball & MJG’s first albums. He put his hands around it and he exposed it to the Chicago market. Every time I think about Chicago, I always think about Pinkhouse. Pinkhouse was the main reason why I even came to Chicago.

Talk about that. What was Chicago like for you when you first came here?

Coming to Chicago was a very interesting moment for me because when I came, I had my hat cocked a certain type of way and I didn’t know the rules and regulations. And he told me, “Tony, man you gotta keep that hat straight (laughs). And I kept it straight ever since. So, for me, doing my journey as a young Black man from the inner city, raised by a single parent, establishing Suave House at 16 years old, seeing what I went through to establish [the company], and make it a force to be reckoned with. That was an accomplishment, but also I wanted to touch people I knew understood the music and understood where I was coming from and the importance of a young Black man that was a true, independent CEO and giving me the avenue to get my music heard. I’m from Memphis, raised in Houston, but Chicago is Suave House’s biggest market to this date. They supported everything Suave House did and I wanted to bless them [with the Feed Your City Challenge], the same way they blessed me.

With the conversation within the music business revolving around Black Lives Matter and supporting Black communities, what do you think it’ll take to get many of these CEO and executives from the major labels to support these communities like what you and many of the artists have been doing across the country?

I think they have to be involved with people they’re not comfortable with. Stop giving money to these organizations you think is giving the money to Black people, because they’re not. Nobody is holding these organizations accountable. Do business with somebody that has their finger on the pulse. A person that you know is in the music business that has been very successful in the business. Like right now, the Feed Your City Challenge, we’re in our ninth city. We’ve had eight of the top music artists host these cities without funding from the parent companies. [The artists] are giving the money themselves. Jhene Aiko gave money herself. Nick Cannon, himself. Rick Ross, 2 Chainz…Pee from Quality Control. 

Pee was on vacation in Mexico and he took a private jet back to Atlanta just to attend Feed Your City in Atlanta. He didn’t have to do that, but he did because he cares about where he’s from. He cares about the area. He wants to take [talent] from the area, but he also wants to give back to that community. See, white people want to come and exploit your community, but don’t want to build a library over there, never build a basketball court, never build anything. When an artist is dead, they say ahhh aahh ummm. If you wanted to demonstrate good character, you would have said, ‘I made a lot of money off that artist. Let me do something for that community as a token of appreciation for birthing that particular artist.’

I don’t think we’ve ever seen that before.

And you’ll never see it unless I do it and I am going to do it. That’s why I’m in Chicago. I’m going to every city that has blessed me and fed my family because every time I feed myself, I feed my family, my loved ones, it comes from my fans. My fans gave me the opportunity by buying my records. I had a dream, I had a drive, but without the opportunity, you might not have heard of Tony Draper. So, I’m always appreciative of people that have helped me, that’s why I want to help them. I’m in the best place I could ever be in my life. I’m 49 years old, I’m successful, I’m good. Bro, you want to know what makes me happy? Giving to somebody else. There’s another star out there that’s hoping and praying that they could get an opportunity and if I could give them that opportunity, I’ll give it to them. I don’t relish in the attention; I relish in the accomplishment. Let me help somebody. And if I help them and they become successful, they don’t owe me a quarter. I won’t sign them to a management deal or nothing. I just want you to acknowledge it and pass it on. See, we got to learn how to pass it on.

With the timing of this event brought on by the pandemic, how do you feel about it all?

I think it was God’s mission. With COVID that’s really unfortunate, a lot of people lost their lives during this pandemic. A lot of people have lost their jobs, their homes, their properties. My heart goes out to them. But if me and Ricky Davis can put a smile on a mother’s face, a father’s face and feed their children, that’s all I need. I remember me and my mother going to churches and food banks, walking with free government cheese, powdered eggs and we was happy. We were so happy, smiling and grateful. I think without that, I don’t think we would have made it to the following week. So, I’m always thankful for everything God blessed me with. I don’t think I’m special. I think that I had a plan and I stuck to my plan and made it happen.

Suave House has had a lot of artists who have always been outspoken about social and political issues, [similar to like an] Ice Cube recently. Considering that, and what you’re doing with these artists for the Feed Your City Challenge, do you think that the role of the celebrity today is to get in front of these issues or to fall back and support the people who're already doing the work?

I think it’s a choice. For me, I’m not a city official, I’m not a politician. I’m more comfortable with doing and getting my hands dirty on the ground. If I was in Chicago building houses for people, I would actually be there. I wouldn’t [just] send no money or send a crew there. I would be there. That’s how I feel blessed. I feel blessed by actually talking to the people and them seeing me out there distributing groceries. I feel good when a person drives up in their car and they pop their trunk and say ‘Draper?! You putting groceries in my car?!’ And they may be happy about ‘Space Age Pimpin’’ or ‘I’m So Tired of Ballin’’ or whatever, but just the mere fact that they were happy about me putting groceries in their car meant more to me than anything else. I think it’s a choice you make as an individual.

For a lot of people, some celebrities end up causing harm because their celebrity and actions might overshadow the actual issue.

You know what though? Without you being a celebrity, you might not be heard. So why not use that platform to be heard? I think LeBron James is phenomenal. I think Ice Cube is phenomenal. You don’t have to agree with him, but you have to respect him for speaking his mind and trying to get something for Black people. Nobody else did it! Nobody else took the initiative to write a Black America contract and present it to both [Biden and Trump] camps. So, I think that was a phenomenal move, whether I agree with it or not, it was still a phenomenal move. We got to stop with all this goddamn talking and do some action.

Draper and Davis’s Feed Your City Challenge will be arriving in Compton, California as their next stop on November 21.

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Interview: T.I. Talks Activism, Verzuz Battle, And His Desire To Produce A Biopic On His Life Before Fame

Although Tip "T.I." Harris has earned some very respectable stripes as an emcee for his successful rap career, the self-proclaimed “King of the South” moniker really began to take true form once he stepped into his community activism calling. He’s acted in blockbuster films opposite Denzel Washington, Paul Rudd and Kevin Hart, but his willingness to speak truth to power has shown an unwavering commitment to being on the good side of history, as opposed to choosing silence to secure a spot on the good side of Hollywood.

During this recent conversation, Tip talks about his upcoming Verzuz battle with Jeezy, politics, the Trap Music Museum, and his desire to make his TV/film directorial debut.

Be sure to check out his newest album, L.I.B.R.A available on all streaming platforms.

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Ziggy Marley's First Time Voting In America

No more long talking from politicians. Today, the people have their say at the ballot box. Judging by the number of voters who showed up early this year, the 2020 election is going to smash all records for voter participation. With a deadly pandemic, wildfires, floods, economic pressure, and a struggle for survival playing out from the tweets to the streets, the stakes have never been higher.

If you're reading this right now and you haven't voted yet, it's not too late. Get up get out and let your voice be heard. As Samantha Smith recently discussed on her IG Live, this year's election is too important to sit out.

Snoop Dogg will be voting for the first time this year—and he's not the only one. Ziggy Marley voted for the first time this year also and documented the process on social media. "I decided to vote and I wondered to myself why," Ziggy wrote on his IG. "Then I thought about those who came before, the price they paid. In part, I am voting in honor of them and to honor them, to not belittle their many sacrifices and struggles with my high jaded righteousness and indifference. Many brothers and sisters from numerous backgrounds and origins marched, bled, and died to give people like me basic rights in 🇺🇸 , the right to be treated like a human being, the right to vote."

As the eldest son of the Robert Nesta Marley aka the King of Reggae, Ziggy is part of a mighty musical legacy, but his father is more than a musical legend.  The new film Freedom Fighter—part of the 75th anniversary series "Bob Marley Legacy"—examines Marley as a symbol of human rights with a voice more powerful than any politician.

Ziggy has continued his father's musical mission as a solo artist and part of the Grammy-winning family group Melody Makers. His 2018 album, Rebellion Rises opens with a song entitled "See Them Fake Leaders," leaving no doubt about his views on the institutions of government. Still, Ziggy remains engaged in the political process, doing his part and encouraging others to do the same.

"Imagine if Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, and others thought, 'Voting rights? Civil rights? Who cares? What difference will it make?'" Ziggy wrote on IG. "Just imagine what the world would have looked like now if not for their sacrifices. Go ahead, imagine it. Can you see it? Well, what do you think?"

"To be clear voting is not the end-all," Ziggy Marley added. "It is a small piece of a puzzle and just one of the tools in our toolbox that we must use as part of a larger effort to bring positive beneficial changes for all people. The work must continue at maximum effort after elections regardless of the outcome." Ziggy emphasized that he was not voting for a party or a person for an idea. "Even though we have differences we can be better human beings, more united human beings, more loving human beings, equal human beings, just human beings. The politics will come and go left right and center but still through it all the humanity that we must show to each other is not negotiable."

Ziggy voted by mail this year, but for those of you standing in line today to exercise your right and let your voices be heard, Ziggy curated a special playlist for Tidal's "Hold The Line" campaign. Music to vote by—from Ziggy and Bob to Fela and James Brown, not to mention Public Enemy and Rage Against The Machine.

Ziggy Marley’s new album, More Family Time, is out now on all music streaming platforms.

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