Today (May 31), fans were taken to church for this special debut gospel edition of the Verzuz series between Grammy-award sweeping Kirk Franklin and Fred Hammond. Everyone from Timbaland, Kerry Washington, Bun B, Swizz Beatz, LeToya Luckett, and Bryan-Michael Cox bowed their heads with Bishop TD Jakes’ opening prayer to sharing tears during the surprise phone call to Ahmaud Arbery’s mother Wanda. Less of a battle and more of a time of collaboration, Franklin and Hammond took time to focus on the needs of the black community and providing a space of opportunity to lay your burdens down.
This evening was truly a moment of healing. Below are the biggest takeaways from Kirk Franklin and Fred Hammond’s Verzuz.
1. Bishop T.D. Jakes Opening Words
Over a melody that takes us back to the front pews of our childhood church, Bishop T.D. Jakes reminds us that we have “seen too much darkness” and that he “feels like sometimes the knee is on my neck and I cannot breathe.” In spite of the darkness and not because of it, Jakes starts with encouraging words to fight against COVID-19, police brutality, suicide and depression, the lack of safety for the black community, and then leads us in an encouraging prayer.
2. “He Is The G.O.A.T., I Am The Alpaca”
Franklin gave encouraging words to everyone on Instagram Live that this would be a time to shift the negative narrative that has been painted of all Christians in light of recent situations. By paying homage to his fellow competitor, he sets the competition aside to be grateful to be in the presence of a colleague in the gospel music industry. “He is the goat, and I am the alpaca,” he joked.
3. “I Can’t Breathe” Shirts
Both dressed in black, Franklin and Hammond used their audience of 153K — which rose by the minute — Instagram viewers to speak on recent social justice events, including the death of George Floyd, through fashion. “I Can’t Breathe” and “I Can’t Breathe...Again” read their shirts as they stood in solidarity with their brothers and sisters.
4. “I’m Not Plies”
Franklin added comedic effect to this night by addressing rumors of his clothes being too small or too tight — or more notoriously looking like rapper Plies. “I am not Plies,” he preached over the keyboard, while Hammond jokingly added, “You are small.”
5. Kirk’s Dancing
From the shmoney dance to “Brighter Day” to doing a bit of a bop to “Our God Is An Awesome God,” Franklin kept the good times going with his vivacious energy and engagement with the virtual crowd. With every song, whether it was his own or Hammond’s, Franklin was never afraid to praise God and bust out a two step. “Since Fred called me secular, I’m going to own it,” he joked as he prepped to drop the 2019 bop, “Love Theory” and did a quick Michael Jackson spin.
“Even if you’re in your drawers,” he called out to everyone to get up, and not be too cute or stiff to praise dance in their living rooms. Did you peep his running man during “Looking For You”?
6. Marvin Sapp and Tamela Mann’s Guest Appearances
“Never would have made it,” Marvin Sapp effortlessly belted over Franklin’s keys. After Hammond and Sapp jammed out to Commissioned’s “King of Glory,” the guest couldn’t leave without singing “Never Would Have Made It.”
Later in the Live, Tamela Mann blessed us with her presence and her vocals for a live rendition of “Take Me To The King,” and everyone in the comments from Quincy Brown to Emily B lost their minds. As Franklin went in on the keyboard and Hammond raised his hand in worship, Mann gave this Live exactly what it needed from a strong female gospel powerhouse.
7. The Emotion
Between Franklin and Rance Allen’s “Something About the Name Jesus” and Hammond’s “Jesus Be A Fence” with Sam Cooke, the comments section was crowded with clapping, praying hands and fire emojis. What really set it off was Mann’s verse in “Now Behold The Lamb” — and she went OFF to say the least.
As they went into the second hour of their Verzuz, Franklin and Hammond said the names of the fallen victims of police brutality in the black community before playing Franklin’s iconic “Revolution” single. Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, and Michael Brown were some of the names dropped, as Alicia Keys and Amber Riley continued to sound off with Korryn Gaines, Breonna Taylor and Wakeisha Wilson. Lena Waithe also chimed in by adding, “Our black women and trans community are being killed as well” not long before Logan Laurice continued with Philando Castille, and Amber Riley with Tanisha Anderson.
“Only great people go through the deepest waters,” said Franklin once Hammond uplifted the class of 2020 with congratulatory words for powering through their academic year amidst the pandemic, violence and everything in between that could have deterred them from their dream. Congratulations, class of 2020.
9. Hitting 250K
By providing a space for healing through the first ever gospel edition of Verzuz, Hammond and Franklin successfully hit the 250K mark at the beginning of Franklin’s “Imagine Me.” Though the number teetered back and forth, the mark was not missed this Sunday evening.
10. Grab Your Boo
Franklin brought out his wife, Tammy, as he milly rocked and even backed it up on her for “Rain Down On Me,” while representing true #BlackLove goals. “Grab your boo at the crib,” he encouraged the audience when he continued to do the mom-and-pop two step with his partner. “Let me see you leave. I’m going to lay hands on you this evening, girl,” he playfully teased.
11. Ahmaud Arbery’s Mother
“We just wanted to be able to call you and let you know that we haven’t forgotten about you, your son or what you’re facing. We weep with you and we hurt with you,” Franklin said on a surprise phone call with Ahmaud Arbery’s mother, Wanda. He and Hammond made it a mission to call her to let her know that the two of them, the Verzuz audience, and our community are standing alongside her in her time of need.
“Everyone who has stood for us... I just want to say thank you. The support means the world to us and continue to lift us up in prayer,” Wanda said before parting from the phone call. A few members of the virtual church even sent over some virtual hugs and heart emojis.
12. “Strong God” Music Video Release
As a closing gift, Franklin revealed that he will be releasing an official music video for his song “Strong God,” which will be available to watch tomorrow (Monday, June 1).
Relive the epic Verzuz showdown with Tidal’s playlist below: