Kirk Franklin’s rhythms may inspire grandmothers to tap their feet, but the diminutive performer’s music has an unabashed following among young people. Youth choirs, step teams and praise dancers routinely perform to Franklin’s effusive soundtracks that blend gospel, hip hop and R&B.
Young people also identify with Franklin’s personal story of being abandoned by his parents as a baby and raised by his grandmother in humble surroundings in Texas. His frank discussions about his life, often synced into his music, have led to sellout concerts, multiple Grammy awards, and an alphabet soup of other music industry honors. Since stomping his way onto the national stage 17 years ago, Franklin’s lyrics and testimonials also have led to guest speaking engagements at colleges and universities throughout the country.
In his new book The Blueprint, A Plan for Living Above Life’s Storms, Franklin, a prolific song writer, singer and producer, expands on his classroom lectures to discuss marriage, sex, religion, parenting, relationships and race.
theGrio caught up with Franklin shortly before the launch of The Blueprint’s tour. Seconds into the conversation it was evident that the same intensity and candor that Franklin displays in concert is equally intense via telephone.
theGrio: What led you to write The Blueprint?
Franklin: It originated from speaking engagements at various colleges and universities such as Colgate and Syracuse. I come from a real jacked-up pass, and when I began speaking on college campuses about it, people began asking for books.
Can you talk a little more about your past? We know that you grew up in Fort Worth, Texas
I had a crackhead mother who said she didn’t want me. My father, the only thing he ever gave me was a haircut. I’ve been there and done that. Sometimes it’s painful to talk about my life. I was raised by an old lady who made my clothes. I’d go to school looking out of date. I wanted a Jheri Curl, but Gertrude refused to let me get one. (He laughs) She made me wear big pink rollers (at night) instead.
Did you have help writing the book?
Nope. I don’t even have a G.E.D. I would check into a hotel room to write in order for a quiet space. You want to write something that engages people and takes them there. It’s ironic that while I was writing a chapter about black men and parenting, I was in a hotel room in Houston. My biological father lives in Houston.
How does The Blueprint accomplish your goal to engage readers?
Through practical advice. For example, If I lose a job, my life is not over because my source (God) can create a resource. Also in the book, I talk about how we’ve got to stop expecting a pass just because you’re black.
Can you give an example of what you mean?
Sure. In the church a minister may have a certain lifestyle that doesn’t match what it should for someone in his position. So he needs to be held accountable. Or even a political figure, or in music where women are disrespected.
How do you separate the celebrity Kirk Franklin from the father, husband and God-fearing Kirk Franklin?
I don’t see myself as a celebrity, which is a mindset. It’s not a mindset I choose to have. Whatever platform I’m using it for, I’m using it for a deeper reason—to teach people – I have a passion for youth ministry — and to be an example. We can go into a person’s psyche and redirect their compass. To young artists, I tell them “It’s not about you, it’s up to God.”
Relationships is a hot topic these days and seemingly everyone is an expert or wants to discuss the R word. Why so much interest?
Most people want it, but we live in a society against it.
I’m so down for a woman being a powerful figure, but she wasn’t created to be having a baby by herself. That child was created to be a mirror of both (the mother and the father). People want a relationship, but because it’s not working, we want to rewrite the rules.
Everyone knows how instrumental the church has been in your life and music. What is your approach to religion?
I’m anti-religion, which is man’s way to God. If we can see everybody through God’s lens, we’d (be in a better place). I don’t want to hurt my wife because that’s God’s daughter.