Home Featured Content Stellar Awards Weekend Full Recap

January 15, 2012

By Hasan James

Urban Soul Cafe, Cannery Room

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Dorinda Clark Cole being honored at Urban Soul Cafe

Rance Allen enjoying the tribute to him

Brittney Wright and Zebulon Ellis

OK so I just got back from Nashville, Tennessee and it was one long weekend filled with nothing but Gospel music! When my wife and I left the Philadelphia airport, we had no idea that once we arrived in Nashville that it would be colder there than it was in Philadelphia but it was! Anyway, the weekend’s festivities started on Thursday night with Urban Soul Cafe as they honored three heavyweights in the gospel music industry: Dorinda Clark Cole, Rance Allen and Kim Burrell. These legends were honored in song by their younger counterparts, Brittney Wright, Lowell Pye, Marvin Sapp and Anita Wilson. The night was filled with so many independent and major gospel recording artists such as: Wess Morgan, The Nevels Sisters, Isaac Simpson, Jai, Earnest Pugh and Fred Hammond, who attempted to play his new single “I Feel Good”, but the track would not play. So what did Fred do? He gave us the old classics!

Jai blazing the stage at Urban Soul Cafe

The Cannery Room at Urban Soul Cafe was packed to capacity and the crowd really embraced the artists. This was also a huge weekend for Root Magazine as we released our 10th Issue featuring Isaac Carree and B3 Records.


BMI Trailblazers Luncheon- Rocketown

Friday, January 13, 2012

On Friday, January 13th, one of the most highly anticipated event of the weekend was the BMI Trailblazers Luncheon honoring Hezekiah Walker and Kirk Franklin. This event was amazing and while on the red carpet I got a chance to meet one of my favorite female singers, Faith Evans. I tried not to embarrass myself and hopefully I succeeded. However, Faith was very nice and a pleasure to meet. She even talked about the cover song she did with Jessica Reedy from Reedy’s album “From The Heart”, entitled “Dr. Love”. Faith stated that the song was originally for her album but she decided to give the song to Jessica and the rest is history.

The BMI Trailblazers Luncheon began with the worship segment that featured Wess Morgan who sang his hit song, “I Choose to Worship”, Vashawn Mitchell  sang his #1 hit, “Nobody Greater” with EMI recording artist, Tasha Cobbs, William McDowell who sang his #1 song, “I Give Myself Away” and Earnest Pugh, who sang his #1 song “Rain On Us”. After the worship segment, Marvin Sapp sang his smash hit “Best In Me” and was presented with the BMI Award for the most played gospel song of the year along with hit making producer, Aaron Lindsay.

Now it was time for the main event and the first co-host of the evening was the incomparable Kim Burrell, and with Donald Lawrence’s singers, “The Company”, in tow under the direction of Dewayne Woods, the tribute to Hezekiah Walker began with a medley of Walker songs such as: “I’ll Be Satisfied”, “I’ll Fly Away”, “Jesus Is My Help” and “Faithful is our God”. The crowd of about 600 executives, radio personalities, media and artists were all on their feet jamming to those Hez and LFC classics. Now it was time for some more of the classics and Kim Burrell welcomed Faith Evans to the stage to sing the Jules Bartholomew penned song, “Calling My Name”. Before Faith uttered one note, she talked about the times when she would sit in on Love Fellowship rehearsals and feel the presence of God, no matter what she was going through. The honoree of the afternoon could not stop beaming, as Faith Evans is actually one of his favorite female vocalists as well. As Faith sang the words “How many times do I go against your will”, the presence of God was felt and you felt that this song was made for Faith as she sang it so beautifully. This was until Faith pointed to the originator of the song, Timiney Figueroa, to come on stage and finish the song with her and the two sang the song like it has never been sung before! WOW! The crazy part is right before Faith went on stage, she saw Timiney backstage and begged her to come on stage with her to sing the song and Timiney declined…not in a bad way either. After Faith insisted, she obliged and the rest is history. Everyone in the audience probably thought it was rehearsed but it was impromptu and those are the best performances!

Le’Andria Johnson singing “Silver & Gold” in tribute to Kirk Franklin @ the BMI Trailblazers Luncheon


Next up was Dorinda Clark Cole singing the hand clapping, foot stomping “Lift Him Up” from Walker’s 2085/The Experience album (which yours truly named lol). If anyone knows Dorinda Clark Cole, you know that she is the hand clapping, foot stomping kind, so this song was perfect for her and she sang and danced across the stage like nobody’s business. Next up was co-host, Kim Burrell’s turn to sing “Grateful” from the same 2085 album and we all know Kim made the song her own. Please keep in mind that the artists being honored do not know who will be honoring them in song so they are just as surprised as the audience. With that being said Lowell Pye was next up with “Company”, as they sang Walker’s first #1 song, “Souled Out”.

D.J. Rogers, Hezekiah Walker, Marvin Sapp & Wardell Malloy of BMI

One of the biggest surprises came when 70’s R&B/Gospel singer D.J. Rogers graced the stage and sang the Hezekiah Walker penned songs “Clean Inside” and “I’ll Make It”. Anybody who knows anything about Hezekiah Walker’s influences, you know that DJ Rogers is his biggest musical influence and the very first song he wrote (I’ll Make It), is a remake of Rogers classic hit, “It’s Alright Now”. Anybody who knows anything about D.J. Rogers knows that he is a pastor who does not fly and lives in California, therefore, it took him two days, a train and a bus to get to Nashville to support his “son”, Bishop Hezekiah Walker.

Of course, the tribute would not be complete without D.J. Rogers and Marvin Sapp singing “God Favored Me” and before Walker came up to accept his award, the “War Cry” somehow crept in. Kim Burrell said that was Bishop Moales making his presence known in the room and indeed it was. A very emotional Hezekiah Walker brought his 18 year old daughter, Ky’Asia, on stage with him and talked about the times when he could not be with her because he was always on the road and pastoring two churches. Walker then dedicated the award to her telling her, “You are my trailblazer”. There were many watery eyes in the place after that. Walker also thanked his co-honoree, Kirk Franklin, for taking gospel music to a place that he or some other gospel artists could not take it. After all of this, there was still one more honoree to go!

Kirk Franklin’s tribute began with the second co-host of the afternoon, Israel Houghton and although the previous BGV’s provided by “The Company” were unbelievable, who better to serenade Kirk better than his own singers, Isaac, Anaysha, Nikki and Shawn, under the direction of none other than Myron Butler. Just like Hezekiah Walker’s tribute, Kirk’s began with a medley of some of his classics as well. “Riverside”, “Melodies from Heaven”, “Why We Sing”, “Love”, “Imagine Me” and “Hosanna” all had the crowd up on their feet singing and chanting.

Tamala Mann sings "Now Behold the Lamb" at the BMI Luncheon honoring Kirk Franklin

Two of gospel and christian music favorites, Israel and Fred Hammond was first in the tribute to Kirk Franklin and they did so with an acoustic version of the Grammy winning song, “Lean On Me”. After their offering, Fred stated “When I started a choir (Radical for Christ), I chose the DNA of Hezekiah Walker & Kirk Franklin”. Next up was Light Records recording artist, Jessica Reedy who sang her unbelievable version of “Brighter Day” and if you saw my tweets, you know that Jessica Reedy ripped that place to shreds! After Reedy blessed the crowd with “I Smile”, Myron Butler and “Mr. Brown” himself, David Mann, sang “He’s Able” from Franklin’s debut album. It is hard not to see David Mann as “Mr. Brown” and I almost forgot he could sing lol, and boy did he sing! Next up was Music World artist and Sunday Best winner, Le’Andria Johnson singing “Silver and Gold”. What can you say about Le’Andria? This woman can just flat out sing and is so transparent and that’s what people love about her.

What would the song “Something About the Name Jesus” be without Rance Allen and Isaac Carree? Well the two showed and proved as they dazzled the crowd and sounded identical to the song they recorded with Kirk more than 14 years ago. Tamala Mann ended the late afternoon with the song she made famous more than 20 years earlier, “Now Behold the Lamb” and I must say, she still got the pipes!!! Before Kirk received his award, his wife Tammy, read text messages from all of their kids congratulating their father on his award. As Kirk took the microphone, he thanked his wife, family, Vicki Mack- Lataillade, his singers and also returned the favor by thanking Hezekiah Walker for being one of the first in the gospel music industry to give him encouragement at GMWA in the 90’s when he first started out.

Kudos to Del Bryant, Catherine Brewton and Wardell Malloy for producing another great BMI ceremony!

Bishop Hezekiah Walker Presents Choir Fest 2012- Mt. Zion Baptist Church

By Aries Jordan

Friday, January 13, 2012

John P. Kee at the 1st Annual Choir Fest presented by Hezekiah Walker

This year a new event was added to an already huge list of events held during Stellar Awards weekend. The first annual Choir Fest, presented by Bishop Hezekiah Walker, was held at the 2,500, Mt. Zion Baptist Church; Antioch location where Bishop Joseph Walker is the senior pastor. The event was free to the public and the goal was to show that choirs are not extinct and in fact are stronger than ever. This event highlighted Choir- masters from as far as Newark, NJ to the Tri-State area.

The Strength In Praise Choir led by Darrel Petties

The first choir of the night was Meachum L. Clarke and True Purpose from Jacksonville, FL. They immediately led the night into worship with their rendition of Richard Smallwood’s “Total Praise”. After their divine performance, the scene shifted a little when Gospel Hip-Hop artist Brother Hahz took the stage. Hahz gave his testimony of how he came from working with rapper Jay-Z to the now representing for the kingdom. Once his heartfelt testimony was given, he took the crowd on a musical journey with his new single “One”. The crowd immediately stood to their feet and although the audience of thousands was relatively a choir crowd, they were mesmerized by his words and his flow and they stayed up for the second song, “Praise Your Way Out”. That song shifted the atmosphere into an atmosphere full of praise. One of the hosts of the evening, Ricky Dillard, was assigned to introduce the next choir, but before doing so, he addressed the stereotype that choirs are a dying breed and that solo gospel artists are taking over. He stated: “Many solo artist came from singing on choirs. Kim Burrell and Tramaine Hawkins got their start by singing with choirs”.

Brother Hahz wows the crowd with his rap style with his single "One"

Dale Ciceron and O4C did their new single entitled “Get Up” and the crowd did just that! Nate Bean and Forgiven wowed the crowd with their purple and black robes and their energetic style while Darrel Petties & Strength In Praise was the next group to perform and started off with singing the Sam Cooke hit “A Change Gonna Come”. Their choir received much praise for their vocals and showmanship and it was evident they were one of the crowd favorites of the night.

Darrel Petties praising God

It was now time for the man responsible for bringing choirs to the forefront as well as the first choir to have a gold album. After a few moments for the band to set up (which included two drummers), Pastor John P. Kee entered the stage with is signature black sweat suit and sneakers and the crowd immediately burst into cheers! It was even a pleasant surprise to see older members from New Life like Lejuene Thompson, Zacardi Cortez and original member, Jeanette. In pure John P. Kee fashion he started the set with classics like  “He’s Making A Way”, “I Do Worship”, “Standing In The Need of Prayer”, “Lilly In the Valley”, “Clap Your Hands”, the classic, “Jesus Is Real” and ended his hour long set with a new song entitled, “I Win”. This performance proved that John P. Kee and the New Life Community Choir still got it.

J.J. Hairston and Deon Kipping singing "Lord You're Mighty"

The night was almost coming to a close but there were still a few more choirs to go and J.J. Hairston along with Washington DC’s own, Charles Butler & Trinity, along with Deon Kipping sang the church choir anthem, “Lord You’re Mighty”. Philadelphia’s Zak Williams and 1/Akord sang “No More Sadness” and the last choir of the evening was the energetic, Kevin Lemons and Higher Calling.

Bishop Hez greeting the crowd of over 2,500 at Mt. Zion Baptist Church

Celebrity attendees included: Maurette Brown Clark, Jessica Reedy, Michelle Williams, Bishop Eric McDaniel, Jonathan Nelson, The Nevels Sisters, Jason Nelson, D.J. Rogers, James Fortune, J. Drew Sheard, VaShawn Mitchell and others.

The 27th Annual Stellar Awards- The Grand Ole Opry

January 14, 2012

Choir Master, Ricky Dillard & New G closes out the show

VaShawn Mitchell took home a total of six Stellar awards last Saturday during the taping of gospel music’s biggest night. The 27th Annual Stellar Awards was one of the best shows in recent years and featured riveting performances by Kirk Franklin, Earnest Pugh, William McDowell, James Fortune, a collaborative segment with Hip- Hop’s finest: Lecrae, Da Truth and Canton Jones, a collaborative segment with Kim Burrell, Le’Andria Johnson, Jessica Reedy and Martha Munizzi and Ricky Dillard and New G.

The entire show from top to bottom was simply amazing and the crowd was energetic throughout three hour taping hosted by Marvin Sapp and Dorinda Clark Cole. I have to say that the best performances of the night belonged to the two collaborations of Kim Burrell and the girls and Lecrae and the guys. From that performance Jessica Reedy will gain new fans and Christian Hip- Hop will be a mainstay at the Stellar Awards, mark my words!

Twitter and Facebook went ablaze when the Song of the Year category was announced and Kirk Franklin won for “I Smile”. The fact that he won was not the reason for the social network craze but more so for the act of kindness he bestowed upon the writer of “Nobody Greater”, Darius Paulk. As Kirk walked to the stage, he called for Vashawn Mitchell to come to the stage because he thought that he wrote it. Vashawn then calls for Darius Paulk and Kirk talked about how much the song “Nobody Greater”  had blessed him over the past year and gave him the award, showing that it is better to give than to receive. Kirk Franklin is indeed a blessing to the kingdom.

Here is a full list of Stellar Award winners:

(Winners in bold and black)

Artist of the Year
Earnest Pugh
Kirk Franklin
Mary Mary
VaShawn Mitchell

Song of the Year
“Nobody Greater” | Darius Paulk
“Well Done” | Deitrick Haddon
“I Smile” | Kirk Franklin
“I Choose To Worship” | Wess Morgan

Male Vocalist of the Year
Earnest Pugh
Israel Houghton
Smokie Norful
VaShawn Mitchell

Female Vocalist of the Year
Beverly Crawford
Kim Burrell
Martha Munizzi
Yolanda Adams

Group/Duo of the Year
James Fortune & FIYA
Mary Mary
Rance Allen Group
Trin-i-tee 5:7

New Artist of the Year
Greater Mt. Calvary Church Choir
Preashea Hilliard
Todd Dulaney

CD of the Year
James Fortune & FIYA – I Believe
Kirk Franklin – I Smile
Mary Mary – Something Big
VaShawn Mitchell – Triumphant

Choir of the Year
Chicago Mass Choir
Mississippi Mass Choir
Ricky Dillard
Shekinah Glory Ministry

Producer of the Year
Aaron Lindsey, Tommy Sims & Israel Houghton for Love God. Love People.
Kirk Franklin for Hello Fear
VaShawn Mitchell, Daniel Weatherspoon & Rick Robinson for Triumphant
Warryn Campbell/Mary Mary for Something Big

Contemporary Group/Duo of the Year
James Fortune & FIYA
Mary Mary
Trin-i-tee 5:7

Traditional Group/Duo of the Year
Keith Wonderboy Johnson & Spiritual Voices
Rance Allen Group
The Soul Seekers

Contemporary Male of the Year
Deitrick Haddon
Earnest Pugh
Israel Houghton
VaShawn Mitchell

Traditional Male of the Year
Keith Wonderboy Johnson
John P Kee
Rance Allen
Smokie Norful

Contemporary Female of the Year
Kim Burrell
Preashea Hilliard
Yolanda Adams

Traditional Female of the Year
Beverly Crawford
Evelyn Turrentine-Agee
LaShun Pace
Twinkie Clark

Contemporary CD of the Year
Deitrick Haddon | Church on the Moon
Kirk Franklin | Hello Fear
Mary Mary | Something Big
VaShawn Mitchell | Triumphant

Traditional CD of the Year
John P Kee | The Legacy Project
Mississippi Mass Choir | Then Sings My Soul
Ricky Dillard | Keep Living
Smokie Norful | How I Got Over…

Urban Inspirational Performance of the Year
Deitrick Haddon | “Well Done”
Kirk Franklin | “I Smile”
Mary Mary | “Walking”
VaShawn Mitchell | “Nobody Greater”

Music Video of the Year – Short Form
Martha Munizzi | “Excellent” (Martha Munizzi)
Christian Heuer | “Walking” (Mary Mary)
Canton Jones | “God” (Canton Jones)
VaShawn Mitchell | “Nobody Greater” (VaShawn Mitchell)

Music Video of the Year – Long Form
Deitrick Haddon | Church on the Moon
Jerry Parries | Bishop Morton Celebrates…
Mississippi Mass Choir | Then Sings My Soul
Ricky Dillard | Keep Living

Traditional Choir of the Year
Chicago Mass Choir
Greater Mt. Calvary Church Choir
Mississippi Mass Choir
Ricky Dillard

Contemporary Choir of the Year
Lonnie Hunter & Structure
Shekinah Glory Ministry

Instrumental Gospel CD of the Year
Harold Rayford | I Am the Instrument
Moses Tyson Jr | Music Remastered & Sacred Organ
Todd Ledbetter | Meditations: Hymsn in the Key of Jazz
Winston Stewart | Season

Special Event CD of the Year
Bishop Paul Morton | Still
John P Kee | The Legacy Project
Shekinah Glory Ministry | Refreshed By Fire
VaShawn Mitchell | My Songbook

Rap, Hip Hop Gospel CD of the Year
Flame | Captured
Lecrae | Rehab
Lecrae | Rehab: The Overdose
Viktory | Birth of a Legacy

Children’s Project of the Year
Teen Pure N Heart | Pure N Heart Live
Santiago & Claude Deuce | My Destiny Place – My Imagination
The Velasquez Singers | Ten
T-Rep The Young Prayzr | Let’s Go

Quartet of the Year
Keith Wonderboy Johnson & Spiritual Voices
Rance Allen Group
The Soul Seekers

Recorded Music Packaging of the Year
Christina Jones for Dominionaire (Canton Jones)
Denise Trotman & Greg Gilligan for Hello Fear (Kirk Franklin)
Martha Munizzi for Make It Loud (Martha Munizzi)
Tanner Gary for Triumphant (VaShawn Mitchell)

Praise and Worship CD of the Year
Earnest Pugh | Earnestly Yours
Israel Houghton | Love God. Love People.
Shekinah Glory Ministry | Refreshed By Fire
VaShawn Mitchell | Triumphant

Spoken Word CD of the Year
Marco the Poet | Marco the Poet EP
Michael Diallo McLendon | The Diallo Experience
Selah | Look At You Loving Me
Trupoetry | Trupoetry

Radio Station of the Year Finalists:

Major Market (3M+)
WPZE 102.5 FM (Atlanta, GA)
WPRS 104.1 FM (Washington, DC)
KJLH 102.3 FM (Los Angeles, CA)
WGRB 1390 AM (Chicago, IL)
[list courtesy of GospelPundit.com]

Large Market (1-3M)
WHAL 95.7 FM/1460 AM (Memphis, TN)
WFMI 100.9 FM (VA-Norfolk-Newport, VA)
KCAO 600 AM (Baltimore, MD)
WMBM 1490 AM (Miami, FL)

Medium Market (500,000-1M)
WLOU 1350 AM (Louisville, KY)
WPRF 94.9 FM (New Orleans, LA)
WENO 760 AM (Nashville, TN)
[list courtesy of GospelPundit.com]
WPZK 102.5 (Little Rock, AR)

Small Market (under 500,000)
WDJL 1000 AM (Huntsville, AL)
WJNI 106.3 FM (Charleston, SC)
KOKA 980 AM (Shreveport, LA)
WIMG 1300 AM (Trenton, NJ)

Specialty Awards were presented to John P. Kee with the Rev. James Cleveland Achievement Award, Vy Higginsen accepted the Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award and Dorothy Norwood with the Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award.

Kim Burrell with her first two Stellar Awards

Canton Jones, Da Truth and Lecrae

The Big Winner of the Night- Vashawn Mitchell

Wess Morgan


Ricky Dillard who was styled by Carlton Spence of Style Evolution


Root Contributor, Ta-Tanisha Thomas reps for ROOT!

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