Tye Tribbett: Standing Out From the Crowd

Chart-topping artist discusses his rebellious childhood, his unconventional style, and taking gospel to new heights   

There’s the music, of course. But Tye Tribbett’s got something extra for his fans. Maybe it’s the dreadlocks bouncing as he leaps off a stage and sprints through an aisle. Or perhaps it’s the array of bright-colored sweaters he layers over a shirt and tie with sneakers to match. His neverending energy and unconventional style are sure to lift spirits (and hands and feet). Born into the church as the son of a choir director and preacher, Tribbett’s love for God is in his blood, and he’s determined to walk with Jesus and encourage youth to do the same. His latest album, “Stand Out,” embodies his message to young Christians across the globe. Tribbett and his group, Greater Anointing (G.A.), which includes his wife, Shante, are changing the face of gospel while bridging the gap between the old and new sound of the black church.

ESSENCE.COM talks with Tribbett about his childhood, his new album, and everything in between.

ESSENCE.COM: How do you distinguish yourself from your peers in the gospel world?
I’m just different in my expression, but we are all the same in that, there’s God that we serve and that we live for and whom we want to praise. I’m just me and, as a person, I’m different—and that shows through my music.

ESSENCE.COM: How important is street ministry?
It’s very important. I think if God was sitting in a pew, He would want us to go out and preach that same message to the world. When I think of God and how He wants us to represent him, He would want us to reach not just the people in the church, but it’s those people outside the church doors we need to reach even more.

ESSENCE.COM: What do you hope listeners will walk away with after hearing “Stand Out?”
I hope they walk away knowing that the way to Christ is not just right, but it’s better because often times you might not always do what’s right, but you always want what’s better. So I want listeners to know that.

ESSENCE.COM: As a preacher’s kid, were you ever rebellious. Did your dad ever have to put you on extended timeouts or punishments?
I was pretty much in the church and with my dad when I was younger. It was after I got older when my parents couldn’t really pull in the reigns. Although they wanted to, they couldn’t really do it because, by that time, I was already out the house. I was already getting parking tickets by then.

ESSENCE.COM: How were you rebellious?
I did everything they said I couldn’t do. In my house you couldn’t listen to secular music or go to clubs. And I was in clubs, I was listening to secular music. But I was mostly playing [keyboard] in clubs. I never danced, drunk or got high—thankfully. I’m not bragging, but I can honestly say that I never got into any of that other stuff. I was just there in that secular environment.

ESSENCE.COM: Your dad was in the pulpit while your mom served as a choir director. What made you follow in your mom’s footsteps?
I think I followed in both of their footsteps, because when my mom saw my energy she was like, “Come on and lead the choir!” and I was like, “No! That’s a girl’s job!” I didn’t want to do it. But that’s how you know you’re led to do something—when you start out doing something you don’t like but it turns into something you love. I enjoy the ministry and even sometimes during my performances, in between songs, I’ll preach to the crowd.

ESSENCE.COM: How did you make the jump from Tye Tribbett the keyboard player to acclaimed gospel artist?
I don’t know! It just happened. My goal was always to play music. Back then I would have loved to play for Kirk Franklin. I would love to play for the Winans. But it’s an honor; I never thought I’d be here, but it’s a blessing and I feel honored God chose me for this ministry.

ESSENCE.COM: How did your choir, the Greater Anointing (G.A.), form?
I was writing songs in my mom’s garage and I wanted to hear what they sounded like, so I called up some of my friends. One was like, “Hey, I got keys to the church.” So we all met there and started doing some songs and recording. I really liked how we sounded and thought we could have something here so I started sending out tapes. I even submitted tapes to Hezekiah Walker. Eventually we got some feedback and now we’re here.

ESSENCE.COM: Was it always your intention to reach a younger audience?
I think it’s just because I’m young. Every generation appeals to itself. You’re more likely to connect to your own generation.

ESSENCE.COM: How do you respond to church folk who say your music isn’t “holy”?
I used to be hurt and offended, and I used to respond, but I don’t anymore. I let the fruit of the ministry speak for itself now. I don’t get that as much now, because a lot of old school people in the church and older ministers are seeing the effect of the music on the young people in their churches, and now they think that it’s not so bad because it’s reaching the young in ways that they can’t.  

ESSENCE.COM: Gospel artists are sometimes criticized for using their “gift” to make money. What are your thoughts on the issue?
A lot of people don’t understand. They think God is free because salvation is free, the Grace of God is free. But music is a business. The Bible says, “Your gifts will make room for you” so, in fact, the Bible wants us to use our gifts as a means of sustaining ourselves. But some people abuse it and that’s what I hate—people taking advantage of what’s supposed to be for the glory of God.

ESSENCE.COM: Some gospel artists don’t want to be labeled as “gospel.” How do you prefer to classify your music?
I’m not afraid to call myself gospel. I think the crazier the world gets, the more people will look for gospel because, in today’s news, it’s not just “someone killed such-and-such” anymore; it’s natural disasters in the headlines—storms, fire and tornados. So as this is happening, I see the world turning more to gospel for that message of hope.

Photo Credit: Darnel Gaurdine

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