NAME: Kirk Dewayne Franklin
DATE OF BIRTH: January 26, 1970
GENRES: Christian Hip-hop, Contemporary Gospel
YEARS ACTIVE: 1992–present
OCCUPATION: Musician, Songwriter, Record Producer, Choir Director
Kirk Franklin is an American gospel musician, singer, songwriter, choir director, and author. He has won multiple awards, including twelve Grammy Awards. Variety dubbed Franklin as “Reigning King of Urban Gospel”.
Franklin was raised by his aunt, Gertrude, having been abandoned as a baby by his mother. Gertrude collected and resold aluminum cans to raise money for Kirk to take piano lessons from the age of four. Kirk excelled in music, being able to read and write music.
He received his ﬁrst contract offer at the age of seven, which his aunt turned down. He joined the church choir and became music director of the Mt. Rose Baptist Church adult choir at the age of twelve.
Despite his strict religious upbringing, Franklin rebelled in his teenage years, and in an attempt to keep him out of trouble, his grandmother arranged an audition for him at a professional youth conservatory associated with a local university. He was accepted, but later he had to deal with a girlfriend’s pregnancy and his eventual expulsion from school for behavioral problems.
After the shooting death of a friend, Franklin returned to the church, where he began to direct the choir once again. He also co-founded a gospel group, The Humble Hearts, which recorded one of Franklin’s compositions and got the attention of gospel music legend Milton Biggham.
Kirk Franklin and The Family (1992–2000)
In 1992, Franklin organized “The Family”, which was a seventeen-voice choir, formed from neighborhood friends and associates. In 1992, Vicki Mack-Lataillade, the co-founder of ﬂedgling record label, GospoCentric, heard one of their demo tapes and was so impressed she immediately signed up Kirk & The Family to a recording contract.
In 1993, the group, now known as “Kirk Franklin & The Family”, released their debut album, Kirk Franklin & The Family. It spent almost two years on the Gospel music charts and charted on the R&B charts, eventually earning platinum sales status. It remained at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Gospel Albums chart for 42 weeks. It was the ﬁrst gospel music album to sell over a million units.
Two years later, after releasing a 1995 Christmas album titled Kirk Franklin & the Family Christmas, the group released Whatcha Lookin’ 4 in 1996. The album was certiﬁed 2x platinum and earned Franklin his ﬁrst Grammy Award for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album. 1997 brought another album, a collaboration with the vocal ensemble God’s Property, aptly named God’s Property from Kirk Franklin‘s Nu Nation. The lead single, “Stomp”, featuring Cheryl “Salt” James (of Salt-N-Pepa), was a big hit, enjoying heavy rotation on MTV and other music channels, and charting at No. 1 on the R&B Singles Airplay chart for two weeks, even making it into the Top 40. God’s Property from Kirk Franklin‘s Nu Nation was No. 1 on the R&B Albums chart for ﬁve weeks, No. 3 on the Pop charts, and would go on to be certiﬁed 3x platinum. It also brought Franklin another Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album, as well as three Grammy nominations.
On November 2, 1998, God’s Property sued Franklin. The lawsuit, ﬁled in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleged that Franklin induced God’s Property founder Linda Searight into signing an “onerous and one-sided” contract with B-Rite Music.
The Nu Nation Project was released in 1998. The ﬁrst single, an interpretation of the Bill Withers song “Lean on Me” and produced by Franklin and pop producer Dan Shea, controversially featured several mainstream artists, including R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige and Bono of U2. Together with Crystal Lewis, and the Family, “Lean on Me” and the second single “Revolution” (featuring Rodney Jerkins) were considerable hits, and the album contained a version of another Withers song “Gonna Be a Lovely Day”. The Nu Nation Project went on to top the Billboard Contemporary Christian Albums chart for 23 weeks and the Billboard Gospel Albums chart for 49 weeks and brought Franklin his third Grammy.
In, 2000, members of The Family ﬁled a multimillion-dollar lawsuit for royalties for their work on The Nu Nation Project against Franklin and GospoCentric Records. This saw the end of the “Kirk Franklin & The Family” records, as Kirk went on to become a solo artist.
Solo Artist (2001–present)
2002’s The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin topped the Gospel Albums chart for 29 weeks, was No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and was certiﬁed Platinum.
On October 4, 2005, Hero was released in the United States. The album was certiﬁed Gold on December 2, 2005, and Platinum on December 14, 2006, by the Recording Industry Association of America. It made No. 1 on both the Billboard Top Christian and Top Gospel albums. In December 2006, Franklin won two 2007 Grammy Awards for Hero. Additionally, Hero was the 2007 Stellar Awards CD of the Year.
In 2013, Franklin started his own record label imprint, Fo Yo Soul Recordings, which is in association with RCA Records.
In September 2015, Kirk Franklin announced his twelfth studio album, Losing My Religion, the album was released on November 13, 2015. The ﬁrst single off the album “Wanna Be Happy?” was released on August 28, 2015.
On January 20, 1996, Franklin married long-time friend Tammy Collins. When they wed, they each had one child from previous relationships: Kirk‘s son Kerrion, born in 1988, and Tammy‘s daughter, Carrington (whom he legally adopted), born in 1989. As a couple, they have two children together, a daughter named Kennedy (born in 1997) and a son named Caziah (born in 2000).
Kirk Franklin and The Family
- 1993: Kirk Franklin & The Family
- 1995: Kirk Franklin & the Family Christmas
- 1996: Whatcha Lookin’ 4
Kirk Franklin’s Nu Nation
- 1997: God’s Property from Kirk Franklin’s Nu Nation
- 1998: The Nu Nation Project
- 1999: Nu Nation Tour
Kirk Franklin and 1 Nation Crew
- 2000: Kirk Franklin Presents 1NC
- 2002: The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin
- 2003: A Season of Remixes
- 2005: Hero 2006: Songs For the Storm, Vol. 1 (compilation)
- 2007: The Fight of My Life
- 2011: Hello Fear
- 2012: The Essential Kirk Franklin (compilation)
- 2015: Losing My Religion