Maverick City Music & Kirk Franklin – Kingdom Book One

Tribl Records / Fo Yo Soul Recordings / RCA Records

Release Date: June 17th 2022

Reviewed by: Joshua Andre

Maverick City Music & Kirk Franklin– Kingdom Book One (Amazon mp3/iTunes)

Track Listing:

  1. Kingdom (feat. Naomi Raine & Chandler Moore)
  2. Fear Is Not My Future (feat. Brandon Lake & Chandler Moore)
  3. Bless Me
  4. Jealous (feat. Chandler Moore & Lizzie Morgan)
  5. Talkin’ About [Love] (feat. Chandler Moore & Lizzie Morgan)
  6. The One You Love (feat. Brandon Lake, Dante Bowe & Chandler Moore)
  7. My Life is in Your Hands (feat. Chandler Moore)
  8. Melodies From Heaven (feat. Chandler Moore & Maryanne J. George)
  9. I Smile (feat. Lizzie Morgan)
  10. Why We Sing (feat. Brandon Lake)
  11. Take Me Back (feat. Dante Bowe, Chandler Moore & Ryan Ofei)

We call rooms we perform in the kingdom because we’re not just Black, brown, or white. We’re universal. Our message creates a community based on love for each other – it’s for everyone. (‘Kingdom Book One’) allowed us to love on the least of these, those who are most often overlooked. Both Kirk and Maverick City, we create lyrics that reflect the lives we live and not candy coat the lessons we’ve learned. It’s a by-product of our personalities. We are comfortable being ourselves. Sometimes expressing yourself articulately doesn’t convey the exact emotion you’re feeling.

It’s one thing to sing about making a difference, but it’s another thing to actually do it- I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick, and you looked after me, I was in prison, and you came to visit me.

Fellowship is everything. Jesus modelled his life (around fellowship), and we worship God by how we fellowship with each other. The greatest gospel artist of all time is working with us, a collective that’s hot right now. Our worlds of prophetic worship have united, and we’re successfully reaching more multigenerational audiences. We’re at a season in our world right now when everything feels fake. Having some authenticity in the world isn’t us trying to look at a situation and put lipstick on a pig. Instead, we’re being honest. People respect that.

Founded in 2018 by Tony Brown and Jonathan Jay, Maverick City Music has had a meteoric and exponential rise to success, fame, and popularity. With the group being nominated for many Grammy Awards, Dove Awards and Billboard Music Awards, as well as performing at the Grammy Awards in 2021, and being the first Christian group to perform at the Grammy Awards in 20 years; their rise has astounded… probably everyone, myself included. The group have already amassed 11 albums and 7 EP’s within the past 3 years- and their impressive feats and history on Wikipedia is remarkable to say the least. Everyone has jumped on the bandwagon of Maverick… and I have not yet. However, the group’s latest effort (called Kingdom Book One) is a collaborative ‘prison ministries’ album with gospel icon and legend Kirk Franklin. It’s an album I knew I had to check out and review (whether it was briefly or extensively… it didn’t matter!), and it’s an album that was going to gain buzz and popularity from the CCM circles and the mainstream media regardless if I wrote about it or not. And so… going in blind, as someone who haven’t heard the band before (other than their collaborative album Old Church Basement with Elevation Worship); how would I rate Kingdom Book One? Is Maverick City Music a group that we all need to take notice of? Well, the short answer is… yes you should buy this album and listen to it plenty of times this year ad the following years. You may not resonate with Maverick City Music overall. But that doesn’t matter. Because Kingdom Book One is a musical experience that goes beyond artists. It is God-breathed and Holy Spirit anointed… and you really need to stop what you are doing and listen to this album- just to see what all of the fuss is about! There are 11 songs… and each is a artistic masterpiece.

We had placed flier all around the prison yard, not sure who’s going to show up, and then wound up having to postpone the recording because 1500 out of the 1700 people in the entire facility decided that they wanted to meet us on the yard, and watching them walk, single-file and every single one of them had to be checked into that prison yard with their prison ID to get into the concert.

They all came single-file, one by one, to come and be a part of the afternoon. By the time they all got in there, looking out, and just seeing a sea of residents that were there to just, it was one of the most exciting experiences for them.

The team didn’t realize that this never happens — they underestimated the value of being there. So, that was one thing. The other thing is just hearing story after story of how impacted these guys have been through the music that they have access to via the Panda app on their devices in prison… all the stories they have about how they’ve been completely impacted by the songs that Maverick City Music sings and put on their app.

One thing I have to note from the start- the intensity and passion of this worship movement… well, it’s absolutely insane in a pretty awesome way. Each vocalist brings something new, fresh, unique, and different to the album- and the result is that this album dedicated to prison ministries… is a rather refreshing, revitalising, vulnerable, and authentic project. Opening the track listing is the title track. Passionately and intensely led by Naomi Raine and Chandler Moore, “Kingdom” is a simple, yet profound anthem inspired by The Lord’s Prayer. With Kirk leading the song as well with vibrant and engaging spoken word in the bridge, as well as leading effortlessly on the piano; this opener is a track that is one of the strongest on the album- and one that has me excited for what is to come. Worship music at the moment can be stale (think Hillsong, Bethel and Elevation and the negative connotations that come with that); however, Maverick has made worship music cool again, and has made the gospel accessible for everyone.

The rest of Kingdom Book One reminds us of just how great Kirk Franklin is as a singer/songwriter and as a performer; and also reminds us that Maverick City Music is here to stay and will be here for a long time yet. “Fear Is Not My Future”, led by Chandler and Brandon Lake, and is a powerful declaration where both vocalists cry out that fear isn’t our future because of what Jesus Christ has done. It’s one of the longest tracks on the album, and though it somewhat drags, the melody is still a solid anthem that contains numerous biblical truths. In my opinion though, the track is too long and could’ve been trimmed by half- however it’s still solid due to the passion and intensity of the track- the group tries their hardest for 10 minutes (audio) and 17 minutes (video). “Bless Me”, one of the most vibrant melodies on this track list, is earnestly led by Kirk, and cleverly highlights the concept of God blessing us all- not just for ourselves but to help, assist and lift up everyone around us; while the exemplary piano ballad “Jealous”, led by Chandler and Lizzie Morgan, is to me the pinnacle of the album. With Kirk powerfully singing a few verses in this song too; the track expounds upon the concept of Jesus being a jealous God and Jesus never stopping loving nor pursuing us. Lizzie’s vocals especially here are on point- and with this song, I can’t help but be immersed in the power and presence of God. The track listing of “Jealous” is around about 15 minutes… but it’s a quality 15 minutes and the melody doesn’t drag at all.

“Talkin’ About (Love)”, a gospel/reggae infused powerful melody (once again led by Chandler and Lizzie, as with the previous track), speaks about the purest form of love, which is Jesus Christ, and that ‘…what I’m talkin’ bout, is love, have you ever felt it, the one that comes from above, ain’t nothing like it, I’ve tried other loves before, this love that I’m talkin’ bout, It’s a real one, it’s sure…’; while “The One You Love”, co-written with Phil Wickham, Jason Ingram, Chris Brown (of Elevation Worship), and Steven Furtick, is quite possibly my favourite track on Kingdom Book One. Along with “Jealous” that speaks about Jesus loving us incredibly and immensely, so much so that He is jealous for us; “The One You Love”, led by Brandon, Chandler, and Dante Bowe, speaks about how Jesus loves each one of us unconditionally, and that we are priceless and invaluable to Him, that ‘…You take me just as I am, You choose all over again, ’cause I am the one You love, I am the one You love, I don’t have to prove anything, there’s room at Your table for me, ’cause I am the one You love…’.

Similarly, “My Life Is In Your Hands”, a live re-working of one of Kirk’s biggest songs from back in the day, speaks about God’s infinite love for us and the fact that our lives are in Jesus’ hands- a sentiment that feels comforting and refreshing especially when Kirk is the one leading this track. The melody also has immense weight with the addition of refrains from the hymns “Because He Lives”, “He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands”, and “Jesus Loves Me”- Maverick have completely led me down memory lane- in a completely awesome way as well! The next few tracks feature Kirk at the forefront- “Melodies From Heaven”, a powerful, passionate, and energetic rendition of Kirk’s smash hit from the 90’s, features Chandler Moore & Maryanne J. George leading the reimagined track; while “I Smile” is also re-worked and reimagined from Kirk’s exquisite popular track from his 2011 album Hello Fear. “Why We Sing”, led by Brandon Lake, is a timeless classic- also a re-recording originally recorded by Kirk just under 30 years ago; while Kingdom Book One ends with the original melody “Take Me Back”. Led by Dante Bowe, Chandler and Ryan Ofei, this earnest, fervent and passionate piano led ballad, speaks about asking God to take us back to a more simple and childlike faith and relationship with Him- a relationship that is uncomplicated and a relationship that seems to be more pure and more profound.

We want people who don’t know that mass incarceration is a humanitarian crisis globally — and raise awareness that we are the leading country that is host to these atrocities. We want awareness around the topics that affect the community that we represent — as black and brown people, primarily. This is an issue that is deeply embedded into our societal conscious. We want to be able to not just share our songs, but the heart and the lives that these songs are coming out of, and that’s our real experience, a real hard experience. Most all of us, in some way, have been impacted by these issues, and we want to bring it forward. As we mature as artists, as we get more influence, the things that matter to us the most need to take precedence over all the other narratives that are running around out there. This has to be front and center.

Besides awareness, I want it to motivate people to do something about these issues. But, if it’s not just awareness, it’s being proactive. It’s giving to foundations that help figure out how to stop this thing called mass incarceration, it’s volunteering in communities that are grossly affected by it. It’s acknowledging that it’s a real thing. If we can get a small amount of people to just simply acknowledge the fact that modern day slavery exists, then that’s a huge win for us. So awareness is massive because we like to think that the transatlantic slave trade stopped when they let all the prisoners free, but a few months later they just picked them up for J-walking, so they were right back in jail, and some of those guys never saw the light of day again. The history repeats itself over and over and over again, and a lot of times, it’s in subtle ways that we’ve all realize it, and we’re watching it in our everyday lives.

I never used to be a Maverick City Music fan. I still am not. Some songs are too long on the album- namely “Fear Is Not My Future” and “Take Me Back”. The middle of the album, with Kirk Franklin throwbacks, could have been extended a bit more. And in my opinion Brandon Lake and Lizzie Morgan should have led more tracks- their passion and intensity are boundless and crazily awesome. But as a whole, this is a near-flawless, powerful, and well-constructed album, with the concept of going into the prisons and recording live in the prisons, being inspiring, impacting, confronting, and encouraging. Kingdom Book One isn’t a sanitised album. But it doesn’t have to be. Maverick City Music’s goal is to win souls for Jesus- and I think they might have done that with this release. A stellar album and a project that will be timeless, Kirk needs to be congratulated, as do everyone else involved. We will never hear an album like this. And so, what shall we do as we are confronted with the middle of 2022? Why, listen and buy this album, of course! You won’t be disappointed, that’s for sure!

I think this album is for every fan that loves music, and our hope is that these songs and the stories behind them will serve as a way to raise awareness of the challenges that people face every day – many of which are forgotten about. For me, the most impactful part of this experience was the prisoners’ reaction to being remembered as humans. It was an overwhelming sense of gratitude and excitement that carried through every day we spent with these men. It was unbelievable, and I think if more people would just become aware of these feelings, they would want to help find a solution for the issues that come with incarceration.

3 songs to listen to: Jealous, The One You Love, My Life Is In Your Hands

Score: 5/5

RIYL: Jesus Culture, Bethel Music, Vertical Worship, Hillsong Worship, Passion, Elevation Worship

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