One of contemporary gospel music’s brightest and most enduring stars, singer, songwriter, and producer┬áKirk Franklin emerged in the early ’90s leading the Texas-based choir┬áthe Family, whose platinum-selling 1993 debut,┬áKirk Franklin & the Family, proved not only to be a chart-topping gospel success, but crossed over to the R&B and pop charts as well. This crossover appeal would prove to be a recurring theme in┬áFranklin’s collaborations with┬áthe Family┬áand another choir,┬áGod’s Property, as well as in his subsequent solo career, which he announced with 2002’s┬áThe Rebirth of Kirk Franklin. His fondness for collaborations within secular and Christian music circles and his innate knack for combining charismatic urban gospel with R&B, soul, and hip-hop appealed to a wide audience, which helped┬áFranklin┬áremain both a perennial chart success and multiple Grammy winner, which he proved over and over with albums like 2005’s┬áHero, 2011’s┬áHello Fear, and 2015’s┬áLosing My Religion.
In 1992,┬áFranklin┬áformed┬áthe Family, a 17-member choir comprised of friends and associates from his younger days. After signing with the fledgling GospoCentric label, the group debuted with 1993’s landmark┬áKirk Franklin & the Family album. The album topped Billboard’s gospel chart for an impressive 42 weeks, crossing over to the R&B and pop charts as well and eventually going platinum. Two years later,┬áKirk Franklin & the Family Christmas┬áappeared, though it was his 1996 release,┬áWhatcha Lookin’ 4, that sealed┬áFranklin’s stardom. Another major crossover gospel hit,┬áWhatcha Lookin’ 4┬áreached number 23 on Billboard’s Top 200 and earned him his first Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album. The following year,┬áFranklin┬ácollaborated with Dallas-based choir┬áGod’s Property┬áon the album┬áGod’s Property from Kirk Franklin’s Nu Nation, which proved to be an even greater success, topping the gospel and R&B charts and reaching number three on the pop chart. Released in 1998,┬áThe Nu Nation Project┬áwas an ambitious album that combined several different groups including┬áthe Family,┬áGod’s Property, and a new┬áFranklin-led choir,┬áOne Nation Crew. It also saw participation from mainstream secular artists like┬áMary J. Blige,┬áR. Kelly, and┬áBono, and subsequently netted┬áFranklin┬áanother Grammy Award.┬á
Over┬áthe course of the next few years,┬áFranklin┬áworked on the soundtrack of the movie┬áKingdom Come, then returned with 2002’s┬áThe Rebirth of Kirk Franklin, his first album as a solo artist. Making good on the success of its predecessor, the disc soared to number four on the Billboard 200 chart and spent 29 weeks on the Gospel Albums chart.┬áFranklin’s success continued throughout the decade, first with 2005’s Grammy-winning┬áHero┬áand 2007’s┬áThe Fight of My Life, the latter an all-star affair featuring contributions from┬áRance Allen,┬átobyMac, and┬áMelvin Williams, among others
In 2010, following the tragic earthquake in Port-au-Prince, Haiti,┬áFranklin┬áassembled an even bigger crowd of gospel all-stars in Nashville’s Quad Studios to record the benefit single “Are You Listening.” His next studio album, 2011’s┬áHello Fear, featured “I Smile,” his first hit on the pop charts since 2005. More optimistic in tone than his previous outing, the album took the gospel charts by storm, landing in the top spot and remaining there for several weeks.┬áFranklin┬áspent the next two and a half years touring. He formed his own label, Fo Yo Soul, and commenced recording his debut for it. In September 2015, he announced the release of┬áLosing My Religion, which despite its title, was every bit as faith-based as his previous work. Like its predecessor, it earned┬áFranklin┬áyet another Grammy Award, his 12th overall. Following several more years of touring, he produced┬áTori Kelly’s 2018 album┬áHiding Place┬áand launched the Exodus Music & Arts Festival in his hometown of Dallas. The following year, he released his current project┬áLong Live Love, which has spent 3 weeks as number one on the Billboard Top Gospel Album chart.┬á