20 years ago today, on September 22, 1998, Kirk Franklin, a small, radical, man from Fort Worth, Texas, released the Gospel classic and Grammy-award-winning, The Nu Nation Project. This is an album I remember vividly being played on full blast as a kid, as my Dad belted out every lyric, often not in key — but often just as enthusiastically as Kirk and The Family in the background. Kirk Franklin was, “part of the first wave of gospel artists to take the sound and attitude of hip-hop seriously and incorporate them into their work.

Kirk Franklin has a larger than life profile and it’s evident in this iconic album. The Nu Nation Project won a Grammy for Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album, the Soul Train Music Award for Best Gospel Album, and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Gospel Artist — awards all worthy of celebrating in their own right let alone together.

Kirk Franklin is a wave maker who has unashamedly followed in the path of the One who walked on waves. His impact on music has been massive. This includes both Gospel as well as CHH. This claim is indisputable. As a man who never settles and is constantly pushing boundaries to “make God famous” is quite hard to describe —a man who stated that he will not be limited in expressing himself because the Creator is the most creative being in the world and his music worships Him. Some say Kirk Franklin is a hype man, a gospel singer, an R&B phenom, a disturbance, a radical — however, he has done a marvelous job of crossing music genre’s and being a light wherever he goes, regardless of who is on a track with him, even when being different hurts.

“He’s creative, so why shouldn’t my music be creative, too? But everyone in my community, and especially the consumers, they don’t see it that way. Which is weird for me. It makes you feel good when you do a song that, sonically, can fit right next to Drake. But our audience, they don’t care. And it hurts that they don’t care!”

Kirk’s impact on music is one that most people are aware of, especially when artists like Chance The Rapper explain how Kirk Franklin influenced his mixtape Coloring Book — and changed his life. It is also important to recognize that many within the CHH community regard him as a legend. Many tip their hat towards Franklin as a source of inspiration and influence as well.

Franklin’s approach to dismantling stereotypes is a motive adopted by many in CHH. Although each artist is an individual — it is hard to not see, let’s say in Lecrae, a bit of Kirk. Each man is uniquely their own but in the way that Lecrae answers questions, the way he is always pushing Jesus while creating music for everyone — it reminds me of Kirk. The Nu Nation Project also pushed boundaries and was a huge leap onto the scene — it is what some artists consider as the album that made Kirk and turned the masses on to his sound.

Kirk Franklin and His Impact

The impact that Kirk Franklin has had, and continues to have on Hip-Hop — as well as CHH — is undeniable. He has “revolutionized Gospel and made Hip-Hop a more spiritual place,” while encouraging CHH artists to continue on with the good fight. We are fortunate to be living in a time that gets to witness the genius and influence of Kirk Franklin. A man who has more hits than Pete Rose. The same man who is tirelessly working to make God famous and bring His Kingdom to all nations on earth.