Sister Chats from the Praise Party (Part 2) – A Conversation With Y’anna Crawley

What’s new Music Movie Lovers? Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending Tamika Patton’s Praise Party at World Cafe Live here in Philadelphia, PA, and what a beautiful evening of worship it was!  What happened next was a pleasure as well, as I was further ushered into God’s presence and reminded of His promises when I interviewed two of the most amazing voices in Gospel music right now, Tamika Patton and Y’Anna Crawley.  In this post, you will read my conversation with one of those amazing women, Sunday Best season 2 and 2012 Stellar Award winner Y’Anna Crawley, whose highly anticipated début project entitled The Promise was released in 2009 to rave reviews. Currently in between labels and working on a new project, I asked Ms. Crawley to talk about some of her experiences since Sunday Best and what she would like to do in the future.

Me: I’m going to start by saying I am a fan from Season 2 Sunday Best.  I mean, I still You Tube your Grandma’s Hands performance for inspiration!  And (from watching the show) you could tell that music was just in you and a natural part of your being.  Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

Y’anna: Well, my uncle was the late great Reverend Julius Cheeks, he sang with Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers.  My aunt is (gospel singer) Genobia Jeter, and another uncle is (R & B artist) Glen Jones.  My family is musically inclined and it’s in me, I can’t get away from it.  It’s just a beautiful thing.

Me: I’ve read in the past where you’ve described yourself as a non-traditional gospel artist, and in your first project you specifically chose songs that would crossover.  Tell me what challenges, if any, you’ve experienced being a non-traditional (crossover) gospel artist in a hip hop generation?

Y’anna: That’s always a challenge because I think people want to “keep God in a box,” and God is so outside of the box.  My thing is, I want to reach the world.  You can’t reach church people, because they’re already in there and they already have it.  Some people may say I’m too edgy or I’m doing too much, and it’s not the traditional.  But I don’t worry about that because I know what God tells me. Like Paul (the apostle wrote) you have to be all things to all people.  I sang secular music before I went on Sunday Best.  But I tell people there’s two kinds of music, good music and bad music.  Because I sing music that uplifts, embraces, touches the heart and encourages.  I will never sing anything that degrades or makes a person feel unworthy.  If I can’t put a smile on your face my music is not good.  So, the challenges I face I overlook them because I know what God has said about me.  And I am unapologetically doing what I need to do.

Me: Are you working on a new project?

Y’anna: I am.  I’m not with a label right now, but there are some things on the table.  And I am kind of doing things independently, I want to mash some stuff together. I’ve got some producers in Philly I want to work with, and some in LA I want to work with to get the music together, then present it to (labels) and say hey listen this is it.  I want people to know all the way around who I am and what I give to the kingdom.

Me: Earlier this year, you won the coveted Best New Artist award at the Stellar Awards.  Tell me what that meant to you.

Y’anna: It meant everything to me, because as you know I won Sunday Best in 2009 and here it is 2012.  Things happen, people look at shows and think everybody has it all together, the money, glitz and glamour, but it’s not like that. There is stuff that goes on behind the scenes that may get to a point where the artist says “I don’t want to do this anymore.”  Because a lot of people in the gospel field, sad to say, they don’t have the Spirit at all, it’s about business.  And I get it, but you still have to have integrity and the Spirit in you to do this music.  It’s been rough, and I’ve overcome a lot.  I have two boys, and had my first child when I was 17, so people said my dream was going to die.  But I couldn’t let people tell me what God didn’t, and He didn’t tell me that.  My Stellar award gave me that extra boost and let me know, like I said in my (acceptance) speech, just when people forgot about you, God always remembers.  Once He has a promise for you, if you keep moving towards it, He’s going to make it manifest.

Me: Now you mentioned your two sons, how old are your boys?

Y’anna: 17 & 4.

Me: Wow, you don’t look like you have a 17 yr old!

Y’anna: Thank you girl (laughs).

Me:  What do you want your legacy to be for your sons?

Y’anna: I want my sons to know that anything you want you have to put God first and fight for it.  Nobody’s going to give you anything.  If you want to make a mark in this world you’ve got to be seen, and be seen for who you are not trying to be somebody else.  Always be a follower of someone that’s great, your elders, and then you can become a leader once you learn what they did, to get what they’ve got.  So, I want to leave that fight for my children, because they’re men and they’re Black men and it’s already going to be hard for them.  And they already have a statistic placed on them because I’m a single mother raising them.  But I tell them all the time your father is not present, but your heavenly Father is omnipresent (and) He’s always around.  So, they’re gonna have that fight in them.

Me: Okay, last question.  I want to throw in something for my movie fans.  If you were blessed to segue into film…

Y’anna:  You’re about to speak my life, I’m getting chills.  Okay, keep going.

Me: Okay, you’re blessed with the opportunity to pick a role portraying any music legend, who would it be?

Y’anna: You see these tears about to come to my eyes, because this is about to come to fruition.  Aretha Franklin.   I want that role so bad. I am studying her, I’m reading her book.  And I’m believing God is going to give me that role.  Our stories are so similar.  Even her having children at a young age.  How she crossed over from gospel to secular, but still people respect her.  And that’s just going to be my movie.  I love her.

Me: I am going believe God and keep that in prayer for you, because I can see you in that role!  And I want to say thank you so much for taking the time to bless me this evening.

To say that Ms. Crawley was approachable and open would be an understatement.  I am very grateful for the time she spent sharing her personal experiences and those extra words of wisdom.  It’s not hard to see why God has been faithful with manifesting the promises He keeps in store for her.  And if, not if but when we see her portraying the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, please remember that you read it here first ;).  Check the link below to view the Y’anna Crawley moment, from Sunday Best, that I still view when I need that extra bit of motivation during my day.  Let me also take time to mention the originator of the tune Grandma’s Hands, the magnificent storyteller and singer Mr. Bill Withers.  And, for those who don’t have it already, go pick up Y’anna Crawley’s début project The Promise (available at many retailers including amazon.com and target.com; you can find those links below as well :)).

Until next thought family, Thomasena.

Grandma’s Hands,Y’anna Crawley 2009 Sunday’s Best performance (© BET Network): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJSekWNccvI

The Promise Amazon.com purchase link: http://www.amazon.com/Promise-YAnna/dp/B003UPPNY0

The Promise Target.com purchase link: http://www.target.com/p/the-promise/-/A-12854276

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