BY DEMORRIS A. LEE
Times Staff Writer
Kirk Franklin has always had swagger.
In 1993, his initial album infused such a young and vibrant sound into the world of gospel music that it was placed in heavy rotation on gospel and R&B stations.
There were no suits and ties, no Sunday go-to-meeting dresses. Franklin and crew wore jeans, T-shirts and sneakers. The singers were bopping and bouncing to rhythm and blues beats that were laced with Bible verses and words of inspiration. Kirk was there in the midst with his swagger.
Not much has changed about how the Forth Worth, Texas, native delivers his gospel music. It's raw. It's fun. It's honest. And that's what Franklin, 40, said folks should expect Saturday when he takes the stage at Busch Gardens' Gwazi Park.
"I always try to get people excited and crunk about being a Christian," Franklin said during a recent phone interview.
"It's not always a worldly thing. You can come to an event where someone is singing about God's grace and mercy and you can still have a good time.
"In Tampa, I want people's feet sore. I want them losing their voices from screaming and having a good time."
Since hitting the music scene in 1993, Franklin has remained at the top of both the gospel and R&B charts. His albums have gone platinum and multiplatinum. He has won Grammy, Dove, Stellar and American Music awards.
Saturday marks another foray for Franklin. He will officially release his book, The BluePrint.
"It's a book that encourages people to live life," Franklin said. "It's about life's storms, and I use my real-life experiences, which include smart people, stupid people, just all the people I have come in contact with. I try to use all of that to help people in their journey."
It has been a journey indeed for Franklin. His father abandoned his family, and his mother told him that he was an unwanted child. He was raised by a great-aunt. His sister became a crack addict.
"I tried to take every experience and learn from it," Franklin said. "You can learn more from people's failure than their success."
Franklin hosts BET's Sunday's Best, a reality show much like American Idol that searches for the best solo gospel artist. But it's Franklin's soul-stirring music that has garnered him mass crossover appeal.
"You try to do the music and make sure you have motives that are pure," Franklin said. "You trust God that it goes where it's supposed to be."
Demorris A. Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4174