Jelani Aswad has put together a genre-bending worship project that has the ability to relate and minister to many listeners. The calypso and island feels are a lot of fun, the gospel-centric music is on point, and the more contemporary tunes are impressively done. If you're looking to shake up your worship playlist, Jelani Aswad may be what you're looking for.- Review date: 12/31/18, written by Michael Weaver of Jesusfreakhideout.com
The Revival Project, an album by Jelani Aswad on Spotify
Record Label: The Launching Pad Music Group, Inc.
Jelani Aswad: Honestly, the process has been incredible; it has been a joy and an honor to see the abilities of so many people fuse into one project--people who I met only 3 years ago after a huge move from the New York City area to Cleveland, OH. After all was said and done, an unexpected feeling I had was that this was a huge relief. It felt something like when I watched my wife carry my first daughter for 9 months. Except, this baby (The Revival Project) took about 6 years of labor and God's timing. This process has stripped me of my ego in thinking I could do this on my own. Now I can truly say, to God be all of the glory.
Jelani: I grew up in a household where we listened to all kinds of music (except Rock n' Roll, honestly). Motown, Roots, Reggae music from the home country of my parents (Jamaica), R&B, Hip-Hop, Instrumental, Jazz, you name it. I also grew up singing in an Assemblies of God youth group and was introduced to Hillsong and Christian Contemporary Rock Music in Middle School. I got a record deal as a rapper when I was 18 years old and I began playing in a 'World Pop Music' multicultural band when I was 20. After learning how to play guitar at 24 years old, I began merging styles of music naturally as I never felt the need to categorize myself or the songs I was led to write. Now, I realize this is just a part of my call and desire to see the nations united in worship--to see worship on earth, as it is in Heaven. Maybe all the styles I love singing sounds like one style to God.
Jelani: Oh man! That song was an honest reflection that led to a transparent set of confessions, topped with an earnest plea for God to do something new in me, and then in the area where I live. "Revival" was one of the first songs, if not the first song, I wrote when I moved to Ohio in 2016. I cried out to God in a way that I had never done before in a song and I did it never thinking about what the song could become. As the album recording process began to draw near, I called up two worship pastor/artist friends of mine, Jake Furman, who helped me finish up the ending as well as turn it into a piano ballad, and Ernesto Alcantara, who produced all the background vocals. I really felt like the Lord wanted to teach me what the word "revival" truly meant for today--not the tent kind, not the 24-hour-service type, but the one that begins in an individual and spreads out to an entire generation. So, stir in us, Lord, and bring revival to our hearts, homes, and this nation.
Jelani: This may sound surprising, but because of the context of my church, which is mainly CCM, musically, and growing in diversity and multicultural worship, I actually have not performed many of the songs on The Revival Project. On the platform, I have sung "Revival" once, more recently, and "King of Zion" is a song I have led several times on Sunday morning at church. That has always gotten our congregation moving a bit. I would say the song that I dream of performing the most and have had a lot of fun with when I did it years ago at a concert was "I'm a Soldier." I think it says who I am now, it fits the context I am in today, and it has a bounce that would get me moving on the platform.
Jelani: Actually, I have done several conferences, and I have the Moody Walk Worthy Conference for Men that I will lead this coming March of 2019. Our denomination (The Christian & Missionary Alliance), has a huge General Council in Orlando, FL, where I will get to lead and sing some originals as well. I am so grateful and certainly blessed by all the opportunities that have arisen as I worship nationally and in local churches in my area. However, though I do dream of what it would be like to tour, I am fully committed to "equipping the saints" of my home church. That is my main focus. I believe the Lord will continue to work His perfect work and let The Revival Project reach the nations in His prophetic timing. I am open to where He leads me, but I have no formal plans for touring.
Jelani: The Launching Pad Music Group has a mission and vision, "To use fine arts to impact the local church for global reach." I think myself, and my partner and best friend, Cliford Gray, who is the CEO and rapping half of our label, recognized a few years ago that it was ok to want to serve the local church and seek God for the nations. We did not have to be ashamed of our calling to raise up leaders and empower the communities God has placed us in. Clif and I both serve as Pastors in cities we were not raised in. We trained in college as pastors and became convinced that God is for the local church. However, the local church has not always been for artists. Though the response to artist and various forms of worship through the arts has dramatically shifted in a positive way in the past decade, we realize that not every artist is called to serve in part-time or full-time capacities in our local churches. What we would hate to see is great art used to promote a message that does not honor the Lord because the artist felt they had no place in the "Church." So, our hope is that TLPMG would become a recording/production company that would help to equip, disciple, and launch artists who desire to use their gifts as a springboard to share the Kingdom and the gospel. Then they can freely be the pastors, evangelists, teachers, prophetic voices and apostolic leaders God has called them to be. If that does not include them leading worship in a church on the weekend, but rather on the road, or on YouTube, then so be it. We just want to make disciples, who make disciples, that catch fish through the quality art God has called them to make. I hope that makes sense.
Jelani: I think the best advice I could give is, to be honest, and to be healed. Seek healing in Christ. Healing from past hurts, healing from unmet expectations and healing from our own brokenness. Once we are honest, God can hear us. Once we are healed, we can be free. Once we are free, we can truly become vessels who are poured into and pour out for the Lord with total abandonment. The best creativity is done in the most intimate of spaces and moments. Intimacy only happens when a person can be fully known. That is why King David was a great leader, Kingdom impacter, and worshipper. He allowed himself to be fully known and brought generations of people into intimacy with him through the proverbs and psalms. So being honest and being healed starts that process. Then everything you create after that will be sure to move mountains and compel people to enter the Kingdom of God.
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