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J.J. Hairston of Youthful Praise Talks New Book, New Music & Importance of Stellar Awards [EUR Exclusive]

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J.J. Hairston

*Two-time Stellar Award winner J.J. Hairston & Youthful Praise gains another achievement with their first ever #1 Billboard Top Gospel Airplay Chart with his smash hit single, “You Deserve It.” This is the first release on Hairston’s new recording label, JamesTown Music. The resonating song of worship has topped Billboard Magazine’s Gospel Digital Sales chart at #1 for 9 weeks.

Hairston is also the director of music and arts at City of Praise Ministries in Hyattsville, MD, and he and his wife Trina are in the process of releasing a relationship book, “Amazing Love,” due Spring 2017.

EUR/Electronic Urban Report caught up with the performer to discuss the new book, his Stellar Award nomination and his new album.

Check out our Q&A below.

READ RELATED STORY: Hezekiah Walker, Shirley Caesar, and More Show Out at 32nd Annual Stellar Awards

J.J. Hairston

Photo source: Twitter.com

For our readers who may not be familiar with your work, tell us how the Lord has called you into spreading the word through song?

JJ: The way that I got into Gospel music is a lot less traditional. Everyone else probably has a much more spiritual answer for this question. For me, I’m from Brooklyn, New York. I was born and raised there and then we eventually moved to Connecticut. My mother was in the church — she was everything music, so by the time we got to Connecticut, I was tapped out. I didn’t want to be a part or see any choir. But she joined the church in Bridgeport and there was a choir and a girl in the choir that I wanted to get with. So I joined the choir. That’s how I got connected into music, and the choir was an amazing choir at the time, but that wasn’t even the reason I got in the choir. I later married this young lady and we’ve been married 22 years this year. Her name is Trina, and just seeing her changed my life. That choir was just a teen choir at the church at the time. That choir became Youthful Praise, and here we are today. I basically started directing and writing for the choir, and then I became the leader of the choir and then here we are today. We’ve made seven albums. “You Deserve It” is our eighth, it was just released. We’ve been on a successful run only because I saw that girl.

And now you and this amazing woman are set to drop a relationship book, “Amazing Love.”

JJ: We’re releasing a book called “Amazing Love” because after we got married, I had no idea what marriage was like. I didn’t know what I was doing, neither did she. Our first ten years were terrible. We were separated, we were on our way to divorce and eventually, I really believe I had a conversation with God about what I should do with my life and Trina was in the middle of it. Everything revolved around my relationship with my wife, and I believe God told me that if you want favor, she is your favor. So I got my relationship back with Trina and then that year, things really started happening for Youthful Praise. So again, so many transitions started with my relationship with my wife.

The theme of the book shares our experience but we’re also looking to target and speak to couples who are either just getting married or are married and having some trouble in their marriage. We really want to tell them how you can make it out of it, and some of the things that we’ve done and we’ve had to do to transition our marriage. Now we’ve gone from divorce court to counseling marriages. So we’ve learned so much and in the process we’re hoping that some of the things we’ve learned we will be able to share so everyone won’t have to go through the same things we had to go through.

Your latest single, “You Deserve It,” — what an amazing track. Can you talk a bit about what life events inspired the song’s conception, and what it means to you.

JJ: Well you know what’s so funny, I was doing a concert in Kansas City, Missouri, and there was a guy who was singing the song before I got up. And it was more like a chant, it wasn’t fully complete yet. It was a quick one line at the time, and before he could even get off the stage, I said, “You gotta let me record that song.” So he said yes, and I added to it to make it the full song you hear now. I think the same feeling that I had when I first heard it, I think that’s the feeling everyone else is having. Because it’s just a song that connects with everyone. You don’t have to be a gospel music lover, it’s something that just moves you when you hear it. So that’s why I knew I wanted to record it because it’s something that crosses generations, crosses faiths and it’s just simply between you and God. Whatever you believe, however you believe, that’s where the connection is in this song.

Overall, what sort of themes do you and the Youthful Praise prefer to explore in your work?

JJ: Many of the songs that are a blessing to me, bless other people for the same reason. For example, there’s a song called “There Will Be Glory After This,” that we released earlier but we also re-released on this current CD because it was a big song for us. That song came to me when my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Now at the time, the song was basically a hope song. I was singing the song in hope that my mom would be truly delivered from cancer and healed from it. She did pass from cancer, however, there’s so many different cancer survivors that come to me that say that was their theme song when they were going though chemo, when they were going through all the different things that they have to go through in the process of surviving cancer. So even though my mom passed from it, it still speaks to people who are dealing with that. So I really believe that some of the songs that I get, even though I deal with it on a smaller scale, or any type of scale, it still reaches people who are dealing with that same thing. So my testimony is really a blessing to those who hear it because we put it to music.

youthful praise director

JJ Hairston at 2017 Stellar Awards. (Photo Credit: Earl Gibson, Courtesy of Central City Productions/TV One; Arnold Turner, Courtesy of Central City Productions/TV One; Maury Phillips, Courtesy of Central City Productions/TV One)

You’re a previous Stellar Award winner, and you’ve earned two Stellar nominations for the single “You Deserve It.”

JJ: This is the first time we’ve ever been nominated for a song. We’ve been nominated for records. We have several nominations for records, we won last year for Contemporary Choir of the Year, but this year we’re being nominated for a song. We were nominated before the record even dropped because of how great the song has been responded to.

Are awards such as this, or even just the acknowledgment, just as important as the work you put out?

JJ: I think the Stellar Awards are just a feel good acknowledgment from the industry recognizing what you’ve contributed. What we do for our listeners and our supporters, the music that we put out, can never been truly reflective of what the awards are saying. Cause at the end of the day I know that the listeners and the supporters have somewhat of a vote but that’s really voted upon by the radio announcers and those who are part of the Sagma organization. It’s really great to be acknowledged by them but I still don’t quantify that as this is what our people are saying. Our people support us all the time by buying CD’s, coming to the concerts and even sharing testimonies and sending us emails talking about how our songs are blessing them, that’s really a true reflection of the work we’re doing, as far as ministry concerned. Now in the industry, absolutely it feels great to be embraced and accepted by the Stellar Awards organization and we will never take that lightly.

Do you ever wonder why God chose you to do what you do?

JJ: I do wonder that but I know the answer right away. I think he chose me because I know for a fact that I’m not talented enough, I’m not a great enough singer that people would be captivated by me, so everything I do, everything I say, it always goes to God — all the credit, all the praise, always goes to him. And I’m not saying I’m terrible but I know the impact we’ve had. There’s so many more talented people who could have that same type of impact but they don’t. I really believe it’s because God knows, through me, he’ll get all the glory and he’ll get all the praise. So he keeps enlarging my platform, letting more people be invited to what I do cause I’m always going to give him the praise for it.

Tune in to The Stellar Awards on TV One Sunday, April 9 at 7 p.m. ET with encores at 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET. In addition, the Stellar Awards will air in national broadcast syndication on 170 stations in over 150 markets around the country from April 15 – May 7, 2017. 

J.J.’s group earned two Stellar Gospel Award nominations for “You Deserve It,” in the categories of Song of the Year and Urban/Inspirational Single or Performance of the Year.

Have a listen to the amazing track via the player below:

 

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Is Pres. Elect Biden Obama’s 3rd Term? & What 44 Said About Black America’s Progress Under His Watch on ‘Breakfast Club’ (VIDEO)

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Charlamagne Tha God - Barack Obama
Charlamagne Tha God - Barack Obama

Charlamagne Tha God – Barack Obama

*Attorney Antonio Moore discusses the recent Obama Breakfast Club interview during his Book tour.

Moore harshly critiques the interview of Pres. Obama performed by Charlamagne, DJ Envy and Angela Yee.

He also looks closer at President Elect Joe Biden’s cabinet picks and measures them again Barack Obama & Bill Clinton’s prior administrations.

MORE NEWS: Ripped in Their 50s! Mike Tyson and Roy Jones Strip Down for Weigh-in / WATCH

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** FEATURED STORY **

The Virtual United Negro College Fund Tour Heads to NY, DC & NJ on Fri & Sat-Nov. 20 & 21 (EUR EXCLUSIVE!)

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*African American students interested in going to college can attend the United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) Fall 2020 virtual Empower Me Tour. Set for this Friday and Saturday (November 20 & 21, 2020), New York, District of Columbia, and New Jersey will be repped. (This year’s tour kicked off earlier this month in Wisconsin and Illinois). To register, go here.

The Empower Me Tour is an extension of the goals of the UNCF. Founded in 1944, the UNCF, a non-profit, has raised more than $5 billion and helped more than 500,000 students attend 37 private historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

The EUR caught up with Stacey Lee, the tour’s director for four years, who discussed the importance of the event.

“The UNCF is the nation’s largest provider of education support to minority students,” said Lee. “The Empowerment Tour has been executed for the past 12 years and last year along we offered over $12 million dollars in scholarships.”

MORE NEWS/RELATED: BMEE Authors: Urgent Steps Are Necessary to Address Implicit Bias in Early Education  

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Stacey Lee, director of the Empower Me Tour. (Photo credit: UNCF)

Lee continued, “I think the great thing is that during these times, even with COVID-19, is that a number of corporations (Wells Fargo/P&/FedEx/Disney/Goldman Sachs) and donors have really been providing opportunity and financial access to our schools and students.”

The tour is packed with information and resources so that students and parents have the right tools to make informed decisions.

“It’s a free event that provides educational support, scholarships, interviews with colleges, empowerment, and information on how to get to and through college. We also provide this information for parents as well. We have a parent section that focuses on financial aid and the things you need to get your students to college.”

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Source: Empower Me Tour

Lee continued, “Sometimes we have students that don’t realize that they can attend college. They can receive scholarships. Some of them don’t even know what an HBCU is. So, it’s inspirational for me to see these students receive this information and the excitement that’s around this tour.”

In addition to college information, panel sessions on issues affecting the community will also take place. Legendary rapper Bun B will be part of a special My Black Is Beautiful panel. The panel will have discussions with girls and boys and the MC will lead the male portion.

“It’s about empowerment,” Bun B told the EUR. “It’s vital for us to lift each other up and amplify each other’s voices. We just talk about now what that role is in this COVID world. And with everything that we are seeing with young Black men on television, we want to keep them motivated and centered. We want to make sure that they are not discouraged in this moment.”

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Legendary rapper Bun B is a panelist at the Empower Me Tour. (Photo credit: UNCF)

Ever since Kamala Harris threw her hat into the presidential race and elected vice president of the United States, a spotlight has shined on the fact that she’s an HBCU grad (Howard University) and member of the African American sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. These facts are not lost on the UNCF.

“Kamala has really boosted people’s awareness about HBCUs and (African American sororities) and the type of people that come out of HBCUs. HBCUS have also provided so many people from science, mathematics, and engineering programs (STEM).”

Bun B added, “We have more than enough examples to show you how beneficial an education from an HBCU can be. So, there is no reason to not be a part of an HBCU because the world is just as available to you as it is for anyone else attending any other type of university.”

Register for the virtual Empower Me Tour on November 20 & 21, 2020 here. Spring tour dates will be announced soon. For general information on the United Negro College Fund, go here.

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(Photo credit: UNCF)

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New Music Buzz: Jazzy Rita Shelby’s ‘Goodbye 2020’

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Goodbye 2020 Jazzy Rita Shelby
Goodbye 2020 Jazzy Rita Shelby

After all that’s happened this year, it’s time to say Goodbye 2020. New single available by Jazzy Rita Shelby at most digital platforms.

*SB Music presents “Goodbye 2020” a new single for the times we are in.

“Goodbye 2020” is performed by Jazzy Rita Shelby and written by Miss Shelby (ASCAP) and Eddie Lawrence Miller (BMI).

It’s the perfect anthem to end a year that has impacted the globe.

Jazzy Rita Shelby Goodbye 2020 looking up - Copy

Jazzy Rita Shelby is fed up with this year and elated about her new single “Goodbye 2020.” Avail now from SB Music (Written by L. Shelby & E. Miller)

EURweb’s Jazzy Rita is also a prolific lyricist who has teamed up with Eddie Miller for “Goodbye 2020” because it was timely and convenient for the birth of a song such as this.

Eddie Miller is a coveted keyboardist & vocalist who performs regularly with Brian Culbertson and he’s the Rhodes Festival musical director. Jazzy Rita rose to notoriety as host & performer at The Starlight Jazz Serenade, an annual benefit concert in North Hollywood with an A list of stars.  As a teen Miss Shelby was inspired to write songs by the legendary David Porter.

This year has been a year like no other.  “Goodbye 2020” is an ode to the world for the year that we have seen and the hope that lies ahead.  Radio Programmers click here for adds.

MORE NEWS: THE REAL: The Ladies’ Experience With Stereotypes in Hollywood. Plus, Cheryl Hines Is Here!

“Goodbye 2020” is released on the SB Music label and was recorded at Wishing Wells Studio in Canoga Park, CA.  Willie Daniels and Mildred Black perform background vocals along with Jazzy Rita.  The video is produced & directed by Jazzy Rita (LaRita Shelby), filmed & edited by Reggie Simon of Simon Vision Media, with wardrobe styling by Jazzy Rita and Poet Roni Girl’s Army Couture.  “Goodbye 2020” is available on most digital platforms.  Click here to listen on Spotify.

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