*In an interview with Essence.com, Avant is welcoming back old fans and ushering new ones in to his sounds of love and romance on his latest album, “Face the Music.”
For his 2013 R&B return, the singer decided to pay homage to the greatest music of the century via the album title.
“At one point, I think everybody should face the music. It’s also about paying homage to the greats before us,” he said. “There’s a lot of music that’s out right now and it’s like, did you put thought into that? Is it real? Would it be appreciated by the greats? That’s why I wanted to title the album Face the Music.”
Avant admits, he’s grown over the years and his music has matured. So, with this new piece of music, he says faithful fans will see a transformation in him through song.
“From the beginning album to this album it shows so much growth. I have more to talk about. I’ve been in love. I’ve had kids,” he said. “There’s a lot going on. The vocabulary expands deeper. With songs like ‘Gratitude’ it pays homage to what music is itself. Every year you should show growth in your product.”
*Gospel icon Hezekiah Walker has been literally leading the Love Fellowship Choir (LFC) for over 20 years.
Walker – the visionary, founder, and Bishop of the Love Fellowship Tabernacle – has a new recording: “Azusa,” his 14th, coming out on June 11.
He recently spoke with ESSENCE.com about working with Deitrick Haddon and Donald Lawrence, obtaining a multicultural audience and he also shared his advice for the next generation of gospel stars.
Here’s some of that convo:
ESSENCE.com: “Every Praise” is your current single, but I have to say I just love that you remade “Break Every Chain” by Jesus Culture. It’s so unexpected.
HEZEKIAH WALKER: Of course you know I’m a choir man and when I first heard that song I kept saying to myself, ‘I would love to give it the choir treatment.’ I could just hear my choir singing. I brought it to them and they loved it. We came up with that and it came up really good.
ESSENCE.com: You feature Deitrick Haddon on the song. What made you choose him?
WALKER: A lot of people don’t know that Deitrick is a choir man. When I first got introduced to him, he had a choir. He sang a song with his choir back in the day called “Chain Breaker” and it was similar to “Break Every Chain.” I just heard his voice on the song.
ESSENCE.com: In “Every Praise” you say you were inspired to acknowledge how different people praise.
WALKER: I’ve had the privilege of traveling and go to different places—I go to Africa every year, Japan, London. Just to see everyone praising differently has been eye-opening. I grew up in a setting that basically taught us that if you don’t do it like this then you’re doing it wrong. From traveling and seeing so many different expressions of praise, it’s amazing how everybody does it differently, but it’s all there to praise God. And so that’s why I wanted everyone to know that even though we’re all different or worship the same, all of our work is there to praise God. I was a little nervous to put the song out there because it’s a little different from the normal Hezekiah Walker but I wanted to show people out there that you can still be a choir and stay relevant. I think the greatest thing that has happened is that in my career I’ve never had the chance to perform in multicultural churches. And in the last seven weeks, “Every Praise” has been hitting the multicultural churches. Even Joel Osteen called me and said, ‘Hezekiah, I heard “Every Praise” and you have to come and do this at my church.’ I never leave my church on Sunday, but when Joel Osteen calls, you go. When you look at the multicultural churches and you see their choirs have all kinds of people. Joel Osteen’s has all backgrounds, all ethnicities. I think the choir is the thing that brings people together.
ESSENCE.com: Tell us about the name Azusa.
WALKER: The origin of the name is a street name in California. Back in 1906, a big revival broke out on that street and really that’s where a lot of the church as we know it today came from, especially those of us that have that Pentecostal background.
*Guess who you won’t be seeing on reality television any time soon, or ever? Holly Robinson Peete and her happy family.
The activist and actress says there’s too much good stuff happening in her family to be much interest to drama sucking viewers.
“We’ve been approached many times and we actually shot a pilot for [a reality show],” Peete told ESSENCE at our sixth annual Black Women in Hollywood luncheon. “The feedback was like, ‘Maybe you guys are a little too happy.’ I think they need a little bit more drama so I might need to flip some tables.”
She added that her family is in the media enough, so she’d rather maintain some privacy.
The R&B legend, 59, was diagnosed with the blood sugar condition last year. She said the condition, and winning custody of her young granddaughter, were just the kick starts she needed to begin her drastic weight loss program, which involved fasting and adopting a vegan diet.
“I had diabetes type two and high blood pressure. I adopted my 10-year-old granddaughter last year. I have to be there for her,” she told Essence.com.
“I knew I couldn’t go out like this so I just fasted for, like, a month, then I went vegan and went off meats and all dairy and anything with eyes. If I have a craving for a little baked fish or something I might eat it. But that’s about it. I’ve mostly been doing a lot of high-protein foods and a lot of vegetables and exercise…
“I felt like I need to heal my body, so I would just fast and eat no meat, no dairy. I’ve never been a fan of meat, dairy and sugar. And when I developed diabetes last year I said, ‘Oh OK, I’m not going to be here long. A change is coming.’ So I started getting my mindset, then I started the fasting.”
But Khan admits she’s not a fan of working out to keep the excess weight off her new slimmer frame: “I don’t like exercising at all. I guess if I had one (exercise) of choice it would be walking. I do not run and I’m losing, like, on average about five pounds a month. I’ve lost 60 pounds since October.”
As previously reported, Khan was awarded permanent guardianship of her then-10 year old granddaughter in December after claiming her son and the child’s mother were incapable of caring for her as a result of drug abuse.
*Wow, how time flies. It’s been a decade, ten years ago today, since the death of TLC member Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes.
Now, her surviving bandmates – Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas – are celebrating group’s 20th anniversary and revealing some unknown facts about the late Left Eye.
Chilli and T-Boz spoke to ESSENCE.com the misconceptions that abounded about the late performer and more.
Here are a couple of highlights:
ESSENCE.com: Today marks 10 years since we lost Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes in a tragic car accident. What do you remember about that day?
T-BOZ: She died a day before my birthday. I remember everything. I was with security in my Porsche and I said to them, ‘I feel like I’m going to get in a wreck and I want to go home.’ The driver said: ‘Well that’s on the other side of town.’ I didn’t care; I wanted to go home. I just felt something was going to happen to me, but it wasn’t me it was Lisa. I was sitting in a rocking chair in my daughter’s room after putting her down when I got a call from Chilli. She was screaming. I had just gotten out the hospital from fighting sickle cell so I had to be careful about getting upset. Everybody was trying to keep me calm.
I remember staying up all night and Patti Labelle and Missy Elliot calling me. Whitney Houston was at Lisa’s Funeral. She sat behind me and rubbed my shoulders for two hours, while telling me ‘it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be alright.’ Right before that, I remember Lisa played a trick where she went missing and nobody knew where she was. This was the one time I wish she was joking and doing one of her stunts, but she wasn’t.
ESSENCE.com: People playfully identified her as the crazy one in the group because of the notable fire in 1994 amongst other things. What’s the biggest misconception about Left Eye?
T-BOZ: That’s the part that sucked. The fire could’ve even been stopped if they stopped acting like little girls and put the fire out. That really could’ve been settled differently. I just really wish people would’ve known her for the sweet passionate person she really was. She was very creative too, I remember I was in the hospital for four months and she sent me a clock that she made and the clock read: “Take all the time you need.” She really put thought into things.
CHILLI: People didn’t understand how much of a heart she really had and how passionate and giving she was. She might have come across as someone who wanted to start trouble all the time but that wasn’t it; she just had a lot to say. Sometimes when you speak what’s on your mind—I’m talking everything on your mind, people can get a misconception of you. So because she spoke her mind, all of the time, it caused people to misjudge her.