Christon Gray Breaks Down Songs & His Relationships with Kirk Franklin & JGivens
Last week, Rapzilla dropped an interview with Christon Gray. In it, he spoke about the honesty it takes to be free from vices and shortcomings. He dove into the thought process behind Clear the Heir and the intention to be open with his life. In this installment of the interview, Gray breaks down some songs and meaningful relationships in his life.
As mentioned in the previous article, he took time off to refocus himself. He used the time to heal spiritually and mentally. During the time off, he also started a new business initiative with his partner Chris Shaban “All Amour (All Love).” The focus was to offer a behind the scenes look at Christians and not sugarcoat things with a one-sided version of events.
“I had to readjust my posture. I was no longer the hook and singer for Reach Records or the flagship artist of Collision,” he admitted. “We started the All Amour articles, we started that lifestyle to turn into something else in the future. I started to put out different songs last summer with one being ‘No Hesitation’. This is the difference in creative space. I got extra honest, I took another step forward and it’s uncomfortable in some circles.”
Gray says that “No Hesitation” is something he thought Lecrae should have done at the BET Awards. It’s something they’ve talked about since.
“Shout out every gospel legend known to man to show people this is where my music came from.”
Another thing he dropped during that time period was the song “Shoulda Known” with JGivens. He thought it was important because people hadn’t heard from Givens in awhile. It also focused on the final stages of Gray’s divorce.
“Those were two very important things I felt were missing and I waited until I was off the label and not in the public eye to be able to put these messages out and be exposed to the guts of the truth,” he shared. “As far as my personal life, one of the things that kept me going was coincidentally enough was my relationship with Shana [finance]. It helped me reconnect to my roots, to my values, and to be ok with being honest in my life because she supported through it.”
Speaking of JGivens, he and Gray have a wonderful chemistry every time they do a track together. Their frequent collaborations are always the highlight of any project or single.
“The reason I love J is we’ve both been to hell and back,” he explained. “We’ve been there together. We didn’t know it was going to be that way, but I met him five years ago maybe at Legacy. When I sat and spoke to him, it was a conversation like we’re having right now, too much chemistry [thanks!]. He’s never under delivered and he struggled to be as honest as he wanted to be.”
He continued, “I was there for him when he was going through a transition when it turned out to be him coming out. I already knew, and I never tried to make him feel bad except when he didn’t want to be honest about it. He was terrified because he was afraid people would treat him differently.”
Gray shared that through all of their addictions, his being sex and Givens’ being drugs, they could always relate to each other. They have gone through these darkest of times together.
The second track of Clear the Heir, “You & I (Samson’s Lament)” was supposed to be a track for JGivens that they were working on together. 10 songs were recorded, but Gray and Shaban wound up pulling two of them for this project. The other was “Time Out.”
“I thought it was fitting to feature his voice and have him come back and be the voice of my addiction,” said Gray. “I will always support him and have his back. He’s by far one of the most talented emcees that I ever heard, especially in this space.”
The song also features Tim McTague, longtime guitarist for legendary metalcore band Underoath.
“In Christian hip-hop, we need to understand how influential rock and roll is to hip-hop,” he said. “There are somethings that I believe were orchestrated by God to bridge the gap racially that we’re struggling in the hip-hop community. We’re stuck in this racial divide. I’’m like, ‘Nah, I’m going to have Tim McTague shred over this modern hip-hop trap beat with JGivens’. It was exactly what the song needed to scream.”
Perhaps one of the most powerful songs on this project is “Together Forever.” The song proves to be a eulogy of not only his previous marriage but of his former life up until this point. He’s looking back and saying goodbye to everything he used to know.
“It’s the eulogy of that chapter of my life. I talk about working with Kirk, I talk about the label, it talks about all the circles I was in. I talk about the people who knew me from the WLAK days, the people who knew me as being a signed artist to Collision, the people who knew me from writing on all of Reach’s albums,” Gray revealed. “They are seeing a person who is saying, ‘Yo, none of this stuff worked out but there are great things to keep from it. When it comes to my previous marriage, ’It’s, aye, we got a beautiful daughter from it’ and we gotta remember at the end of the day as believers we are going to be together forever.”
The line in the song where he references getting a call from Kirk has to do with the decision to work with Kanye West on “Ultra Light Beams.”
“He called me the day before he was going to go to LA and basically asked me for prayer because he didn’t want to misrepresent Christ. He knew he was going to be in the room with Andre 3000, Ye, and all these big names,” the rapper explained. “Before he did that, no one had done this yet. He was just nervous. He didn’t want to go out there and say yes to things that didn’t represent Christ. I know he’s very close to Kanye and wanted to support him and his endeavor, but didn’t want to be aligned with something that was going to be blasphemous.”
He continued, “I had to remind him that he was Kirk Franklin. This is the very reason I signed with him – his heart. You’ve seen everything that has happened because of the result of it.”
Gray said that Kirk has been a legend and yet the only thing he’s concerned about is furthering the next generation.
“I was someone who was younger, and we went out to dinner and talked about his approach to his latest album Losing My Religion. He’s stepping out, he’s taking bullets. He’s changing the landscape and wondering what support he has in the community. He just wants to make sure he’s in God’s will.”
The story of how Christon Gray and Kirk Franklin got together was quite the scene. Franklin flew the then independent artist out to Atlanta to meet with him. It was right before an interview with Kirk on BET where they sat in the same studio where Outkast recorded Aquemini. They were also checking out Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly.
“We’re sitting there and he’s listening to my music and we’re vibing and connecting. This is the biggest dude in Christian music by far. Then he told me, ‘Glory is fleeting. All of this stuff doesn’t mean anything’.”
“It was more significant coming from a Christian than someone in the mainstream. This is a person who has had to struggle with fame so it set the table.”
Gray said he shared all of the things that happened to him after he left his previous label. He explained that he was ostracized by certain people as well. On the song “50 Shades” off The Glory Album, Gray shares a clip of Kirk Franklin’s voicemail to him.
“You’re free here brother.”
“When the legend of legends hears my story and says I can be myself, it’s amazing. It’s the first time I was myself.”
Moving on to the song “Seekrets,” Gray along with most of his team said it’s their favorite track. He said, “It’s easy and not boring.”
“It’s a casual smooth song that reminds of innocence. It’s sitting there but the topic is so heavy. Whatever relationship you’re in, you gotta stop holding these secrets in. There is a lot hope and a lot of love. Everything is so dark, that joint is chill.”
He joked that it would be a song that plays in the car while your mom is driving you home in the 90s. It’s also a song for the grown folk at night, while the next track is for the young people in the morning…
The song “Grow Up” is one of the standouts of the album. It’s a complete harkening back to the 90s and it hits it in the best, non-cheesy way. For secular music lovers, it grabs your Will Smith and Slick Rick vibes. For those who grew up in Christian homes, it hits you in the classic DC Talk and Carman feels – think “I Luv Rap Music” and “Addicted to Jesus.”
“When DC Talk and Carman came out, these guys were heroes. In real life it was cool to be a Christian, we weren’t trying to like the world, we were running around singing ‘Big House’. That was our life,” he said. “This brings back that time for us. I didn’t want to make a track like that and rap modern bars. I wanted old school.”
The track draws a lot of similarities to Bruno Mars and Cardi B’s “Finesse.” Gray said, he wrote his track two years ago and was prepared for people to say he took it from Bruno. However, that is not the case.