At the core of Gospel music is the Message – messages of hope, love, redemption and salvation and its purpose is to give praise, declare faith and thank God. JJ Hairston & Youthful Praise fully embraces these concepts on their new album, AFTER THIS.
“I want people to hear the messages first … I wanted to make a statement and say something instead of just captivating people with a beat or a dance,” said Hairston, long-time leader and director of Youthful Praise. To that end, Hairston wrote heavily on AFTER THIS, having 10 of the 12 songs written or co-written by him. Hairston was inspired to write after listening to a series of sermons by Bishop TD Jakes. “During my writing time, I gleaned so much from some of Bishop’s teachings,” explained Hairston.
The themes of praise, declaration and thanksgiving are sewn throughout the fabric of AFTER THIS. From song to song are expressions of God’s complete greatness and power. Leading off is the up-tempo and instantaneous classic “Lord of All,” featuring Bishop Hezekiah Walker. Harkening back to an identifiable ‘Brooklyn’ sound Walker leads the choir in a head-nodding, call & response jam.
Hairston intentionally takes Youthful Praise back to basics with signature vocals, harmonies and that special East coast sound that made a permanent impact almost 10 years ago. “I really wanted more of YP to be heard this time,” said Hairston. “I intentionally brought that sound back.”
The vocals of Youthful Praise shine on the ballad “Now,” which feature label-mate James Fortune. Carrying on the ‘declarative’ and ‘praise’ threads, “Now” beautifully speaks to believing in what we ask God for – standing on faith that God will do what He says He’ll do. Replete with thoughts of healing and restoration this song is riveting. “Because of who we are speaking to, we know God will always keep His promise,” Hairston said. “Having James on the album is special – he truly has a way of narrating a song that really makes you feel the song.”
The radio single title track, “After This,” epitomizes the idea of uplifting music. From the first guitar lick to the encouraging lyrics, the song is an all-out jam that draws out praise from any listener. Bishop Eric McDaniels offers a guest appearance on the track and the synergy with McDaniels and Hairston’s vision are evident. Hairston said, “Continuing the vibe of the last album, ‘Resting On His Promise,’ I wanted to keep encouraging people. We may be going through trying times but I wanted to say that there will be a testimony after it’s all over.”
Another amazing collaboration is “Working Out For Me,” featuring Hairston’s long time music mentor and inspiration, Pastor John P. Kee and underrated female vocalist Lisa Knowles. “When YP first started we only sang Hezekiah Walker and John P. Kee songs,” Hairston explained. “On this project I really wanted to work with people I’ve always looked up to … I honestly thought it wouldn’t happen. Not only did he say yes, but afterwards he continued to call and encourage me.” Kee gives his classic rich vocals and a Word that makes the listener want to hit repeat over and over.
One of the songs, not written by Hairston is the unique and atmospheric “Love Lifted Me.” Penned by Phil Thompson, of CCM group Ashmont Hill, it is a universal song that speaks to and reaches everyone. God’s Love is available to all people and we have all been brought out of ‘something’. Tye Tribbet is featured on the song and his impassioned vocals translate into a powerful moment on the album. “I expected it to have an impact because of the lyrics but with Tye’s presentation it was awesome,” Hairston said. “It was my first time working with Tye and it fit perfectly.”
For the past two years, Hairston has been the music minister at First Cathedral Church in Bloomfield, CT and recently became the Mass Choir director at Triumph Church in Detroit, MI. These roles influence Hairston’s approach on AFTER THIS – giving the album a more message-conscious feel. “I want people to know what and who God really is,” said Hairston. “I want listeners to walk away with a different mind-set. Even when we think about the simple things in our lives, we should be grateful. I want people to really appreciate the messages on this album.”
“Youthful Praise has matured in their presentation. And while we’ve scaled down we have grown together and evolved. We are concentrating on our message and want our WORDS to be heard.”
AFTER THIS is a musical reminder of who God is – the full greatness of Him and how we, His believers should be approaching Him. One great selection is “I Am” which was written by worship leader, Eddie James. A popular theme it speaks to God being everything – He is Love, Peace, Healing and more. “It is a theme that needs to be heard … we need to be reminded of what He really does and is,” Hairston said.
Other gems on the traditional praise break sounds of “Reap,” the stirring “Grateful,” the powerful “The Blood,” featuring LaShun Pace and “The Victor,” led by Melissa Bell. “The Victor,” is admittedly one of Hairston’s favorites and speaks of victory in Jesus despite the nature of the battle.
The overarching themes of praise, declaration and thanksgiving wholly describe Hairston and Youthful Praise’s brand of Gospel music and are perfectly realized on AFTER THIS.
JJ Hairston is the Director of Youthful Praise. He is a member of Turner's Faith Temple C.O.G.I.C., Int'l. in Bridgeport CT under the leadership of two gospel music legends, Bishop J.C. White and Evangelist Gloria White.
JJ is a native of Brooklyn, NY, where he attended Mt. Sinai Cathedral, C.O.G.I.C. where his grandfather, Bishop Clarence Sexton Sr., was the Pastor. However, his love for gospel music began at his current church when his friend, Shawn Brown, asked him to come to choir rehearsal. It was then that James gave his heart, as well as his voice, talent, and his feet to the Lord. Inspired by the writing ability of his friend Shawn and his pastor, Bishop White, James began writing his own songs such as "He is the Spirit" and "Garment of Praise." Since then, James has been called upon to write and direct for many well-known artists.
To God be the Glory for such a talented young man. God has blessed and anointed JJ to put melody to his testimony, and the testimony of others. He is an admirer of the songwriting styles of Thomas Whitfield, Rudolph Stanfield, Richard Smallwood, Donald Lawrence, Kirk Franklin, James Hall, and Melvin Crispell. He also admires the directing styles of Ricky Dillard, and James Hall. JJ is well known for his exuberant style of directing and singing. You may even recognize him from the choir "James Hall and Worship & Praise" where he was a member for several years.
JJ's ultimate desire is that young people would see him as an active young man, yet as a servant of the Lord and realize you don't have to be old to be saved. Expect great things from this young man in days to come.
Generations have come and gone with young people singing for the Lord. Today, in our turbulent society, comes a group of young people doing something special, positive, creative and is a force to be reckoned with. Who says this is a lost generation? Certainly not with "YP" - better known as YOUTHFUL PRAISE. They are back on the scene with a brand new live CD in stores now.
They dynamic voices of Youthful Praise have been wowing audiences for over sixteen years. Formerly known as the Teens of T.F.T. they have grown within their home church of Turner's Faith Temple (Bridgeport, CT), into an effective ministry that dazzles and delights through the gift of song.
In August of 2001, after much anticipation, the choir released their first live recording Awesome God on Evidence Gospel label, a division of Gospelflava.com. The smash title single "Awesome God" caught on with church choirs nationwide and spread faster than anyone ever imagined. The song has been performed over and over, but none quite like the original, first recorded by YP.
This debut release garnered critical acclaim as it earned Youthful Praise recognition industry wide. Among the nods, the 2003 Stellar Award nominations for Choir of the Year and Contemporary Choir of the Year, the Soul Train Award nomination for Gospel Artist of the Year, the Gospel Music Workshop of America Excellence Award nomination for Choir of the Year and the Gospel Truth Magazine Award for Contemporary Choir of the Year.
Their mid 2004 release Thank You For The Change featured more of the same great mix of choral praise, contemporary gospel and straight-up church songs like "Bless Him," "I Shall Praise" and "U There" featuring Cheryl "Coko" Gamble, formerly of SWV. This project received a Stellar Award nomination for Choir of the year, as well as one of 'Kirk's picks' from the Hopeville 2 Tour last fall featuring Yolanda Adams, Pastor Donnie McClurkin and Kirk Franklin.
Now YP is back, and better than ever. Released on August 23rd, Youthful Praise featuring James Hairston, Live! The Praise. . . The Worship is a refreshing blend of the YP sound you've come to love, with a fresh new choral approach to songs geared towards the Worship and Praise experience.
"Traditionally these types of songs are sung by smaller ensembles," says Hairston, "but this was the vision and dream of mine, it was God-purposed for me to go this route. And because of my obedience to God, it has paid off for me tremendously as well as spiritually. This is a good season for us, it feels good to be YP." Hairston adds, "Our last CD was a wonderful project, and its title, Thank You For The Change, is also actually very fitting for this new project too. While you get a taste of the old YP, we hope to ultimately take you to another area of worship which I believe reflects our growth not only vocally but spiritually."
With songs like 'You Are So Awesome,' 'Incredible God, Incredible Praise' & 'Praise To The Rock,' this CD is sure to resonate in the souls and spirits of not just gospel music lovers, but Christians everywhere, regardless of race, genre or denomination. One thing is for sure, 'God is AWESOME.'
Following in the reputable vocal lineage of their pastor and first lady, Bishop J.C. and Evangelist Gloria White (former director and soloist of the renowned Institutional Radio Choir), Youthful Praise raise the bar for choral excellence. With an unparalleled energy and poise, the choir's television appearances have included Late Night with Conan O'Brien in 2002, The Stellar Awards and Bobby Jones Gospel in both 2002 and 2003. Appreciated for their choral expertise, Joan Osbourne, Shirley Caesar and Destiny's Child have all utilized this choir's ministry talent for performances.
Minister James Hairston, Jr. continues to write most of the material Youthful Praise sings as well as songs for Pastor Hezekiah Walker and others. He is also very busy on the workshop and seminar circuit for colleges, churches and youth groups across the country. With stellar vocal technique and an unsurpassed energy, Hairston and YP are the ultimate combination: add to that a corps of cutting edge musicians under the direction of Eric Davis and the package is complete.
Youthful Praise is poised for breakthrough, and ready to let the world know just how awesome He is.