2016 may very well go down as the year that our greatest hip-hop artists rediscovered the power of gospel. Kanye connected with his gospel roots on Life of Pablo opener "Ultralight Beam" as well as "Father Stretch My Hands" while Chance The Rapper's Coloring Book is infused with references and tributes to not only Christianity and the Bible, but the genre of music that flows from their teachings.
Burrell, a native of Houston, Texas, is known in gospel circles as one of the most powerful voices in the genre, gaining widespread recognition for her 1998 album, Everlasting Life, which hit No. 12 on the Billboard Gospel charts and earned Burrell both the Gospel Music Excellence award for Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year and the Stellar Award for Contemporary Female Vocalist of the Year. In the intervening years, the Grammy Award-nominated singer has not only caught the attention of mainstream secular artists, working with the likes of Stevie Wonder, Missy Elliot, Chaka Khan, Puff Daddy, and Whitney Houston, but she also founded her own ministry, The Love & Liberty Fellowship Pentecostal Overcoming Holy Church in her hometown.
Frank Ocean seems to be a longtime fan of Burrell's and back in 2010 penned a short essay on his Tumblr about his own religious upbringing in connection with a 2007 video of Burrell performing the song, "Home."
"I was raised Christian,"Ocean wrote at the time. "Only had a few friends from different religions growing up."
He describes the strict religious upbringing of his mother and grandmother as well as his conversion to Catholicism around the age of 13: "I never sang or played in the church though, unfortunately," Ocean continues. "I remember being kind of intimidated by the idea of it, actually. Church was the hood Julliard to me. All the coldest musicians came out of there. [Kim Burrell] in the video…summa cum laude."
To have Kim Burrell appear on his latest album six years later can only be described as life coming full circle and proof that Ocean has overcome the anxiety that kept him from singing in church all those years ago.
Listen to "Godspeed" and Blond in its entirety here.