“I’m very proud of my African-American community, but we are more comfortable I be- lieve, with people being exposed versus people exposing themselves”–Kirk Franklin
Radio icon Elroy Smith and inspirational music trail- blazer Kirk Franklin recently sat down for a one-on-one. Revealing and provocative, the chat flowed from topic to topic, in a familiar way that only true friends can share. Smith is the OM of Radio One Philadelphia as well as a successful entrepreneur with his own radio station in his native Bermuda. He has been one of America’s most respected radio programmers for the past 20 years, as evidenced by his shelves lined with every programming honor imaginable. Franklin is a true living icon. His music is simultaneously timeless and on the cutting edge of inspiration. A preach- er at heart, Kirk has made millions of people “Stomp” and helped millions more “Imagine” their way to healing and delivery. His newest smash-hit single, “I Smile,” has both faithful fans and new fans alike singing along with op- timism and joy. Franklin, by the way, is a multi-Grammy Award winner, multi-Stellar Award winner, multi-Dove Award winner, multi-BET Award winner, diamond-selling musician and well, overall Gospel game changer. Always energetic, he jumped on the line with Smith ready to dis- cuss his new album, “Hello Fear,” released in late March.
Here is your chance to be a fly on the wall of one of the most revealing interviews Kirk Franklin has ever done as he catches up with his long-standing friend and business associate, Radio One Philadelphia OM Elroy Smith.
ELROY: This is wild. First of all man, congratulations. There aren’t too many songs that are released that are instantly a smash, not only on one format, but on more than one format. When you put that song together, ‘I Smile,’ were you thinking this thing was going to be so big in such a short period of time?
Franklin: Never. And I hope I never have that attitude as if I know what is going to work and what’s not going to work. The music has re- ally got to be inspired. If not, I might as well do another genre and talk about all those things that other people talk about.
Smith: From my vantage point, you are probably one of the most hum- ble individuals in this business. A lot of times one may say, ‘Oh man, the only thing that Kirk does is he performs, he sings, he writes music, and life is wonderful.’ But you have family commitments and you’re a husband. What is a typical day in the life of Kirk Franklin?
Franklin: Well, when I’m not in album season, on normal days I get up and take the kids to school. If it’s a Tuesday or Friday, then I have to take the trash out.
Smith: Hold on, when you say you take the kids to school, you literally drive them to school?
Franklin: Yes Elroy.
Smith: (laughing) No, the only reason I’m saying that is because I remember hearing some-one that’s very popular in this industry stating that ‘No, no, no, no, I don’t do the cleaners.’ Meaning, ‘Somebody would pick up my clothes from the cleaners, I don’t do that.’ To hear you say that you take the garbage bin out is com- mendable. You’re still a regular guy when you are at home. I’m sure they don’t look at you as the celebrity Kirk Franklin that we look at you as being.
Franklin: Not at all! They laugh if I even try to come through the door with a little bit of some-thing extra on. My wife is like ‘Oh please. You better check that at the door before you come in, little man.’ She’s my biggest cheerleader and my biggest fan, but at the same time, she could care less if it’s standing in the way of me being Kirk.
Smith: When you say your wife, you’re referring to Tammy. I’ve spent time with you both and I just adore her. Tell me more about your relationship.
Franklin: Man, for 15 years God has given me the same wife, same relationship. Through God’s grace, we’ve never been separated, never been to divorce court. We’ve gone through a lot, we’ve had a lot of difficulties, a lot of hard times, a lot of tests and lessons, and I’m just so glad that by God’s power, it kept us together. I still look at her as my girlfriend. She’s a godly woman man, she’s a dope chick. I mean, she’s my soldier. You know what I’m saying? That’s my home girl. We laugh, we act stupid, I mean we get together and act like straight up fools. Remember? You came to her 40th birthday party when we were doing the Soul Train line, and I had Dougie Fresh as a guest artist. We played all the old school jams and did all the old school dances. She’s just a dope woman like that… I tell her all the time – she’s my hero.
Smith: Being with someone for 15 years is a long time for someone in the limelight. There are others who have gone through three marriages within that timeframe. So what keeps you together knowing there are so many temp-tations in this industry?
Franklin: Always staying weak, always staying vulnerable. Never staying empowered. Realiz-ing that every day that I could fall. That every day that I could make mistakes. You know that person in the media, that next one could be me. The only way I stay out is by God’s grace. That’s it.
Smith: Kirk, you allow yourself to be so transparent. You illustrated truth when you went on the ‘Oprah Winfrey Show.’ You were honest in terms of looking at pornography. People can go on television and talk about ‘I’m an alcoholic, I’m a drug addict,’ all of these other addictions, but you probably were one of the first I could recall that went on and talked about that issue. Expand on the reactions after it aired.
Franklin: The greatest lesson I learned from that experience, and please write this down, is how different communities responded differently. I’m very proud of my African-American community, but we are more comfortable I be-lieve, with people being exposed versus people exposing themselves. Meaning, it’s a lot more comfortable for our community to see some-body on TV get busted for doing something, than it is for us to witness somebody saying, ‘Let me tell y’all my secrets.’ I think that we, we’re a people that are taught ‘what’s going on at home stays at home.’
Smith: Well I’ll say this, I’m honored to have known you since the mid-90s and all of my interactions with you have been very encouraging. God has really blessed you. From having a marriage of 15 years, to a beautiful life, to a successful career, and it’s not because of Kirk Franklin, it’s because of the power of God and you’re obedience to God that has allowed you to be where you are today. So I just want to say man, I am so proud of you. I congratulate you.
Franklin: Oh man, thank you. Thank you for the years of friendship. Thanks for your expertise and thanks for your honesty because you’ve always kept it 100 with me and I love that. So thank you bro. It’s always an honor.