By Hasan James
Photography by De’mond Eason
Additional Photography by Ta-Tanisha Thomas
January 28, 2013
Urban Soul Café
From the moment Team Root landed in Nashville, we had to hit the ground running for what was to be a monumental weekend for gospel music. It was also a time for the release of our latest issue featuring Stellar Award Co-Hosts, Mary Mary!
Thursday began a string of Urban soul Café events starting with Access Granted, featuring tributes to Byron Cage with the O’Landa Draper Memorial Unsung Hero Award, Hezekiah Walker with the Urban Soul Cafe Lifetime Achievement Award and Marvin Sapp with the Urban Soul Cafe 2013 Artist of the Year Award. The Cannery Ballroom was filled to capacity as Timiney Figueroa-Caton, Pastor Kervy Brown and Kevin Lemons and Higher Calling went down memory lane with songs like “Jesus Is The Light”, “Make It to the City” and “Come Home.”
The tribute to Byron Cage featured DeWayne Woods, Darius Paulk, Deon Kipping, Same Seed, and Vincent Tharpe & Kenosis, as they interpreted songs like “The Presence of the Lord is Here”, “I Will Bless The Lord” and other Byron Cage classics.
For the tribute to Hezekiah Walker, USC chose not to reinvent the wheel and pulled out some singers who helped make Hezekiah Walker and Love Fellowship a household name; namely Pastor Kervy Brown on “Make It to the City” and Timiney Figueroa-Caton on “Come Home.” Kevin Lemons and Higher Calling provided BGV’s and had that Love Fellowship sound down packed. Y’anna Crawley was supposed to sing “The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow” but got sick at the last minute and Lisa Knowles took to the stage and took the song to new heights!
The tribute to Marvin Sapp was just as “Stellar”, as powerhouse vocalists like Brian Courtney Wilson, Lowell Pye, Jason Nelson, John McClure and The Singleton’s, performing songs, “Never Would Have Made It”, “Praise Him In Advance”, “The Best In Me” and others.
Access Granted also featured general performances by Anita Wilson, San Franklin, Moses Tyson Jr., Brittney Wright, Sheri Jones- Moffett, Joshua Rogers and many others. Then at midnight, James Hall and Worship and Praise ripped the stage with a bevy of WAP classics.
BMI Trailblazers Luncheon- Rocketown
Friday during Stellar Award weekend is always a busy time as the BMI Trailblazers Luncheon kicks off in high gear and this year was no different. This year’s honorees included Kurt Carr, Edwin Hawkins and Tramaine Hawkins. First of all let me just say that Donald Lawrence and Company never, ever disappoint with the BGV’s. I mean it is as if you are listening to a recorded performance or something! But anyway, the afternoon started with Kirk Franklin being awarded as the most played gospel artist of 2012 with his hit album “Hello Fear” reaching gold status (500,000 copies or more) with spawned the smash hit “I Smile.” The audience was surprised with a performance of the song by Kirk’s newest signee, The Walls Group.
Directly after the show got started with former BMI Trailblazer honoree Donnie McClurkin as co-host, the tribute to Kurt Carr was under way. Donald Lawrence and Company rendered the first selection “In the Sanctuary” only the way that they can…. incredibly! For this segment Lisa Knowles sang “My Soul Loves Jesus”, Sheri Jones- Moffett sand “I Almost Let Go” and Amber Bullock sang “For Every Mountain.” Who won round one you might ask? In my opinion, Lisa Knowles was the winner! We all know what Sheri and Amber can do, and they both interpreted their respective songs beautifully but Lisa Knowles was what we like to call the quiet storm!
The charismatic songs of Edwin Hawkins, were then celebrated with dynamic performances by: Pastor Shirley Caesar and Bishop Paul Morton singing the classic, “Oh Happy Day”, LaShun Pace singing “God Will Take Care of You”, Kierra Sheard singing “Give Us This Day” and Jason Nelson and Jonathan Nelson singing “I Need Your Spirit”. Although it has been years since anyone has seen the incomparable LaShun Pace sing anything, the winner of Round 2 was indeed The Nelson Twins! They both took that song to new heights; however, LaShun Pace did come in a close second place.
Finally, an all-star collection of artists, including Anaysha Figueroa singing “Holy One”, VaShawn Mitchell and Yolanda Adams singing “The Potter’s House” and Le’Andria Johnson singing “Changed.” They all performed a rousing tribute to Lady Tramaine Hawkins, which served as the event’s triumphant finale. The winner? Brooklyn’s own, Anaysha Figueroa-Cooper. If you don’t believe me, check out the You Tube clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYSb3CPHa9o&list=UUNhkVEDxKmkD8ZpVC-kpjUQ&index=3
Verity Records Reception
Directly following the BMI Luncheon there was so many other events going on but Team Root stopped by Verity Records Pre- Stellar Awards reception at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel. The event was full of industry executives like Benita Bellamy, Lisa Collins, Gerald Jones, Phil Thornton and many others. The reception did not include any performances but we did get a quick speech from Verity’s Head of A&R, Stanley Brown and General Manager, Geo Bivins letting the crowd know what was on the horizon for the label. First things first, the label is no longer Verity Music Group and has been changed to RCA Inspiration. “The name change is not gonna affect the sound, we will still give you the same music that we have been all along”, said Bivins.
Be on the look out for new music from RCA Inspiration artists- Latice Crawford, Crystal Aikin, Hezekiah Walker and United Tenors (Fred Hammond, Dave Hollister, Brian Courtney Wilson and Eric Roberson) in 2013.
Hezekiah Walker’s Choir Fest
Mt. Zion Baptist Church
For the second year in a row, Bishop Hezekiah Walker brought Choir Fest to Nashville during Stellar Award weekend. Last year, Choir Fest was held at Mt. Zion’s annex location, however, the demand was so great that they had to move it to the larger location across town. 5,000 choir lovers filled Mt. Zion to capacity as the likes of Earl Bynum and The Mount Unity Choir, Mark Hubbard & The Voices, Kevin Lemons and Higher Calling, Charles Butler and Trinity, Larry Callahan & Selected One, Kevin Terry and Predestined, Darrell Petties (who did a medley of Hezekiah Walker, Donald Lawrence and Ricky Dillard hits), Gary Lyon and Living Water and Dexter Walker and Zion and Zion Movement who was announced as the overall winner of Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound by Bishop Hezekiah Walker, and did an energetic performance of “The Wall Came Down” medley. The crowd was on their feet literally from 10:00PM to 2:30AM because the choir were just that good!
J.J. Hairston and YP and Vashawn Mitchell held it down for the mainstream gospel artists and as Mitchell sang his current radio smash “Turning Around for Me”, he asked for assistance from some notables in the audience such as Wes Morgan, San Franklin, Darwin Hobbs and Kim McFarland. All I can say is WOW!!!
By this time the hour was far spent (So churchy, right?) and the crowd was in for a special treat as Tye Tribbett presented some new music. The crowd was hype from the very beginning and was singing along as if they heard the songs before! All I have to say is “Greater Than”…that’s gonna be the anthem for the summer! Tye teased the crowd with bits and pieces of his new material, and if I recall correctly, did not do any of his old stuff. However, in true Tye Tribbett fashion he left everyone in awe, so much so that people were running in the hallway in droves asking to buy the new CD. I felt like the bearer of bad news when I informed them that it won’t be out until June! LOL
Other notables who came to show their support was, Richard Smallwood, Edwin Hawkins, Pastor Kervy Brown, Dr. Bobby Jones, James Hall, and was hosted by Choir master, Donald Lawrence.
Urban Soul Café Mid- Day Mixer
Jazz & Jokes
Stellar Award weekend is very tiresome and nobody wants to get up early on a Saturday morning, unless of course you are enthusiasts of the Urban Soul Café movement. USC Mid- Day mixer was from 10:00AM to 2:00PM and featured the best independent artists in America! Yours truly (Hasan James) hosted the event and I must say I was very surprised at the amount of talent and anointing that graced the room. Artists came from as far as Southern California to share their gift of song to the USC crowd…and it great crowd it was!
Every act who graced the stage had a special gift but there were a few who really stood out to me. David James and One Consecration left the audience singing God’s praises with just one musical selection, they were awesome! You gotta check out a gentleman by the name of Bryan Pound from Virginia. This guy is like John Legend, Robin Thicke and B. Reith all rolled into one. Of course Baltimore’s Brittney Wright never disappoints. Why isn’t she signed yet? Brandon Camphor and 1 Way has ben doing it for a while and it definitely shows in their stage presence and delivery. I am usually on the pulse of what is going on in the “Indie World” but when I introduced a gentleman by the name of KJ Scriven to the stage, I was amazed. Soul Tempo was another surprise as they came prepared to dazzle the crowd with choreography and tight harmonies. Two words…Artist Development!
Big shout out to Carlos Hale and his USC team, for giving these great indie artists a platform to display their God given talents!
28th Annual Stellar Awards
Grand Ole Opry
The vessel that brought all of to Nashville in the first place, was a huge show. It was definitely huge because of the star power that was to perform that night but it was even more huge because this was the first time in the history of the Stellar Awards that the show was taped LIVE! That means no time for mess- ups, stumbling over words or bloopers!
Presenting nine awards during the first-ever live telecast, which aired GMC TV from Nashville’s famed Grand Ole Opry House, the Stellar Awards were hosted by Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary, whose high-energy performance of their nominated hit song “Go Get It” brought the sold-out audience to its feet. At the pre-show ceremonies on held Friday twenty (20) additional winners received awards.
Traditional Group/Duo of the Year and Quartet of the Year went to The Williams Brothers, who in a gracious show of appreciation gave their award to Tim Rodgers and The Fellas, and acknowledged them as the new generation quartet. Newcomer Le’Andria Johnson was awarded Contemporary Female of the Year and New Artist of the Year for her debut album “The Awakening of Le’Andria Johnson.”
Tye Tribbett opened the show and set the tone for a memorable evening with a rousing, energetic delivery of his song “If He Did It Before, He Can Do It Again.” Full of dynamic, spirit-filled performances and collaborations, other key Stellar Awards show highlights included a special tribute to the late Inez Andrews, this year’s recipient of the Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award. The moving segment was presented by Dr. Jones and followed by a medley that featured “Indescribable” by Kierra Sheard, “Jesus Will” by Anita Wilson, “I Promise” by Y’Anna Crawley, and “So In Love” by Amber Bullock. Original Caravans Shirley Caesar, Dorothy Norwood and Delores Washington then delivered a powerful, uplifting arrangement of “Mary Don’t You Weep” as the Andrews family looked on from the front row. A longtime Stellar Awards supporter, Andrews passed away last month.
“The live telecast of the 28th annual Stellar Awards was precedent setting in many ways and far exceeded all of our expectations,” said Executive Producer and Central City Productions Chairman Don Jackson. “The anticipation of ‘going live’ for the first time in the 28 year history of the Stellar Awards created an air of excitement with our entire production crew, co-hosts Kirk Franklin and Mary Mary, as well as all of our nominees, performers and presenters. As a result, it was a historical evening in many ways – from the sold-out seating, to our live backstage online stream and full-to-capacity red carpet and media center, it was a night of ‘firsts.’ I applaud my entire team for the countless hours spent on pre-production which enabled us to have a smooth and on time event.”
Other big moments in the show included Tamela Mann’s soul-stirring rendition of “Take Me to the King”; a holy-spirit infused traditional medley featuring “I Got This” by Dottie Peoples, “Awesome God” by Maurette Brown Clark, “Draw Me Close” by Marvin Winans and a rousing duet of “Who Would’ve Thought” by Donnie McClurkin and Marvin Winans that became a foot-stomping, hand-clapping revival. In addition, Marvin Sapp, Charles Jenkins, Israel Houghton & New Breed all delivered powerhouse performances to the delight of the full-to-capacity crowd.
The show recognized the great accomplishments of some of Gospel’s brightest stars and extraordinary individuals who have made an impact on society. Global inspirational leader, author, producer, philanthropist and entrepreneur Bishop T.D. Jakes received the Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award for his 35 years of ministry and humanitarian work. In a moving acceptance speech, Bishop Jakes expressed his heartfelt appreciation for the honor, acknowledging God, his wife, family and supporters for making this day possible.
“It has been amazing. When I think back 36 years ago, I would never have imagined I’d be standing here today and I want to say thank you,” said Jakes. “In the words of my mother, whenever you see a turtle sitting on a fencepost, always remember he didn’t get there by himself.”
Kurt Carr, protégé to the renowned Reverend Cleveland, received the James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award for his accomplishments, presented by Bishop Paul S. Morton and serenaded by Byron Cage and the Kurt Carr Singers.
“To God be the glory, what an incredible honor this is,” said Carr. “It’s a privilege to write Gospel music and stand on this stage in front of my peers receiving this award,” he added. “I thank all of you and Reverend James Cleveland who gave me my start.”
Dave and Buster’s
Until you see them all peform in one place in one night, one tends to forget that EMI Gospel has one of the best rosters in gospel music. Immediately following the Stellar Awards, EMI Gospel put on an Invitation Only showcase of their artists and they also announced the signing of their latest act, Tye Tribbett!
Performing that night was: Kierra Sheard, forever Jones, Pastor Charles Jenkins, Jonathan Nelson, Vashawn Mitchell, Anita Wilson, Smokie Norful, Tasha Cobbs and others. The showcase was a celebration of EMI’s presence at the Stellar Awards this year and also ended up being even more of a celebration for Pastor Charles Jenkins, who won five awards and Rick Robinson and Kierra Sheard, who also won a Stellar as well.
Here is more news regarding EMI’s new signing of Tye Tribbett:
EMI Gospel Signs an Exclusive Recording Partnership Agreement with GRAMMY®Nominated and Multiple Stellar Award-winning
Recording Artist Tye Tribbett and Tribbett’s Kingdom Music
(Nashville, TN – January 27, 2013) – EMI Gospel today signed an exclusive recording partnership agreement with GRAMMY® nominated and multiple Stellar award-winning gospel artist Tye Tribbett and Tribbett’s Kingdom Music.
To date, Tye Tribett has recorded four albums with numerous groundbreaking and chart-topping hit singles and career achievements. “I am grateful to call EMI Gospel my new home,” says Tye Tribbett. “I believe the EMI Gospel team is fully committed in supporting this new phase in my music career.” Ken Pennell, President of EMI Gospel, made the announcement about the new partnership at the label’s Artist Showcase following the 28th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards in Nashville. “Tye is the future of gospel music,” says Pennell. “He has always been forward in his musical style and his talent as a stage performer. His ministry speaks to the heart of a new generation. Tye’s uniqueness is unmatched and unparalleled.”
Tribbett’s opening performance of his new single, “Same God,” at the 28th Annual Stellar Gospel Music Awards was received by rave reviews and a standing ovation. The single, “Same God” will be available in February and will be featured on his EMI Gospel debut release, Greater Than, scheduled for release this summer.
His highly anticipated debut album, Life (2004), brought Tribbett and his group, GA (Greater Anointing), a wide array of new fans and a Stellar Award nomination. Tribbett’s sophomore project with GA, Victory, was released in 2006, debuting at #1 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart. This break-out project, which included the #1 gospel radio single, “Victory,” received three Stellar Awards, three GRAMMY® Award nominations and a Dove Award nomination. His third release, Stand Out (2008), again topped the charts and earned the group another nomination for a GRAMMY® Award. In 2009, Tribbett, who is also an accomplished musician who plays multiple instruments, retired GA and made other changes in his musical style and direction, resulting in the 2010 release of the aptly named Fresh. The CD, which theWashington Post called “a wondrous album,” also entered Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart at #1.
Tribbett first came to national attention in 1997 when he entered his group, GA, into the McDonalds and Wrigley’s Gospel choir competitions, where they “swept the competitions,” winning first place in all categories. The group quickly became highly in demand, performing with music industry superstars Gloria Estefan, LeAnn Rimes, Elton John, Luther Vandross, and Stevie Wonder. They also appeared with Jill Scott, India Arie, John Mellencamp, Musiq Soulchild, and The Roots, among many other artists, and toured with Faith Hill and Don Henley. Tribbett and his group performed “Let Go, Let God” on the soundtrack of the Dream Works animated film The Prince of Egypt with award-winning duo Mary Mary. The group also appeared on Commons’ Electric Circus album, Jessica Simpsons’ Christmas album, Will Smiths’ projectLost & Found, on a song featuring Mary J. Blige, and Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River.” Tribbett has done numerous live TV appearances including The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Saturday Night Live (SNL), Vogue Fashion Awards, VH1, the Country Music Awards, a tribute to Oprah Winfrey at the 39th Annual NAACP Image Awards, and NBC’s nationally televised Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting. Tribbett supports a number of organizations in raising awareness, education, health, and screenings, including the American Breast Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, Big Brother Mentor Program, the Childhood Obesity Association, and the Association for Juvenile Diabetes.