TASHA COBBS LEONARD
This Is A Move
by Zane Warman, Billboard.com
Award-winning artist and
songwriter Tasha Cobbs Leonard kicked off the new year with the
release of a powerful new worship anthem, "This Is A Move." The song
has already launched into the top 5 of Billboard's Gospel Music charts.
Tasha, who recently moved
from Atlanta to Greenville, SC where she was named worship leader of
Relentless Church with her husband, received a Stellar Award nomination for
Song of the Year for her 2018 song "You Know My Name (Live)" from her album,
Heart. Passion. Pursuit. Live At Passion City recorded at the
influential Atlanta church. She is slated to tour nationally throughout
2019, including three months of tour dates on Bethel Music's
Victory Tour. "You Know My Name" from the album has already reached the
#3 spot on the same chart. Tasha also has earned her 2nd NAACP Image
Award nomination for the album.
As Billboard's Top Gospel Artist of 2018, Cobbs Leonard continues her
brand of passionate and experiential worship with this new live single.
"This Is A Move," produced by Kenneth Leonard, Jr., was
recorded live during Tasha's sold-out headline tour, The Revival,
last year, and evokes the emotion and spirit of her live shows.
On the heels of a career-defining 2018, Cobbs Leonard shows no signs of
stopping, as she readies her premiered of the song on the 20th Annual
Super Bowl Gospel Celebration during Super Bowl Weekend in Atlanta. The
music special was broadcast on BET.
Tasha has been a standout force in the gospel
music world since her arrival, with all three of her major-label records
landing at No. 1 on Top Gospel Albums and her debut single, "Break Every
Chain," earning her a Grammy. But in the past year, the Atlanta-based
singer has been quietly expanding her reputation as a hip-hop collaborator,
starting with a stirring feature on Common's Black America Again.
Her recent single "I'm Getting Ready" topped the Hot Gospel Songs
chart with the help of an unexpected -- and somewhat polarizing -- feature
by Nicki Minaj.
Cobbs Leonard spoke to Billboard about her long-tracking friendship with
Minaj, dream collaborators and the wave of mainstream hip-hop artists
synthesizing their spirituality into music.
How did "I'm Getting Ready" come together? Was collaborating with a
rapper something you were always interested in, or did you want to work with
Nicki in particular?
Nicki and I have a friendship that started a couple of years ago. I
had done this show, and she saw it on television and reached out to me on
Twitter just to say how she was very inspired by the song. Maybe about two
years ago, she started commenting on my Instagram. So we communicated back
and forth there, which started our friendship.
One day on Instagram, she posted saying, "Tasha Cobbs, when you're done
with this album, shoot me 16 bars." Of course, both of our fans started
going crazy:"Are they really going to do this?" When I sent it over to her,
she immediately responded, "This is the song I was hoping you would send." I
guess it was just a song that spoke to her and where she is. It gave her
space to tell her testimony, and that's what you hear on her 16 bars.
Did you expect Nicki's verse
would create this polarizing reaction?
I knew there would be a reaction. I knew that some would agree, and
some would not agree, and I believe I'm perfectly fit for that. I always
tell people, "There are more people that are for us than are against us."
There will always be people who don't understand, and that happens. We're
forever evolving, and' sometimes people will fight change, but I know that
this is something we both had to do, and it gave her an opportunity to share
her heart and her story on a different platform.
She's said that several times -- in a post the other day, saying, "This
is the first time I've been on the gospel chart."
She came from a Christian home, and I think this has given her an
opportunity to share her testimony. It's been great just to read people's
comments that say, "Hey, this song has really been blessing me this week,"
or "This is the only thing I've been listening to this week."
Just to see those comments is huge for me. Everybody can relate to it. It
speaks hope, and I believe our world just absolutely needs that. "I'm
getting ready to see something I've never seen."
You've talked about seeing Nicki's devotion to God that some of her fans
don't realize is there. Is there a specific moment that comes to mind when
you think about Nicki Minaj
in relation to religion?
There are several conversations that we've had where we talked about
her relationship with God. Like all of us, we have areas of our life that we
must continue to work on, and she's very verbal about that, but one thing
that she never denies is that she's not ashamed of her relationship with
God. I remember when we first started to talk about it, she kept saying,
"This is the first time I'll get to expose my relationship with God to the
world." I still believe she's really excited.
It seems like in recent years, there's been a lot more awareness of the
crossovers between Christian or gospel artists and mainstream musicians --
including your work with Common and Chance's with Kirk Franklin. Do you
think this exchange is new?
I think it's something that's happened a few times in the past.
I recall several collaborations that have happened with Kirk Franklin
and hip-hop artists. Even if you look a little further, you may think about
the Hawkins (family) and how they would combine with different R&B
But now, I think what's so different about it is that you have a huge pop
culture, where there are so many eyes watching and social media is so strong
and everybody's so verbal that now, you have a world of people who have an
opportunity to express how they feel about the collaboration. You get to see
visibly, through Twitter and Instagram, how these songs are impacting
Tasha Cobbs Leonard perform "This Is A Move"
live at Super Bowl Gospel Celebration in Atlanta
Tasha Cobbs Leonard
"You Know My Name"
(Live) at Passion City Church in
Tasha Cobbs Leonard
"I'm Getting Ready"
live on Good Morning America -
Tasha Cobbs Leonard's
"Great God" -
live performance at the Stellar
Tasha Cobbs Leonard
"My World Needs You" - Click
Outside of radio, they now have the chance to get on their personal
platforms and say, "I was listening to 'I'm Getting Ready' and this
is what's happening to my life, in my world, and how this song made me
feel." I think that's what is so fresh about it: we get to personally see
how these songs are affecting people's lives.
And as an artist, you much less have the pressure to appeal to just one
audience. People like Nicki can have these different parts of their life
reflected in their music.
That's so amazing because one of the visions that I had with this
album, when we first started was that it would build a bridge for different
cultures and different nationalities, people from different walks of life.
We can all meet on that bridge and bring our lives together to say 'Hey, we
serve the same God.' I believe that's what's happening with [this album].
How did the idea of using worship leaders from different churches as your
background vocalists come together?
That week was so amazing...everything just flowed so smoothly,
everybody's personality worked so well together. We had an opportunity not to
just sing, but everybody shared what was happening in their personal lives and
ministries and at their churches. I believe that each of those worshipping --
there were about 25 worshippers that came from all around the world -- each had
a chance to share with one another, and they built relationships that I believe
will last forever.
They have this thread that they all left me out of [laughs] and every
single week, they stay in contact with each other. That was one of my purposes
in doing it that way. We need to connect with people who do what we do around
the world. Sometimes you can feel really lonely, like you're working and working
and working, and nobody else can relate to how you feel and how tired you get.
Now, they have people who understand the weight of the assignment they carry.
Is there anyone else you'd like to
work with in the future?
There are several artists that I'm friends with and really cool with, and
if any of them call and say, 'Hey Tasha, I want you on this song, I need you to
do this song,' of course I would be totally open to it. I just believe that
those are the bridges we are building and it's definitely going to happen -- not
just to me, but different gospel artists and different R&B and pop artists.
I believe we are going to start to connect and bring those different
gifts. I think we live in a generation and a world of artists who are so
interested in what other people have to offer. I would've never been able to rap
like Nicki on my songs, but "I'm Getting Ready" calls for that style of
rap, that style of hip-hop. I believe that there are so many other artists who
are open to different styles and different people and different relationships. I
think we'll see that much more in the years to come.
But yeah, I would do it again. I was telling someone the other day [that]
I was a fan of Celine Dion. If she called me tomorrow, I would fly to
wherever she is. I would love to sing with her. She has one of the most
phenomenal voices in the world. If you were asking me about another
collaboration, I would say Celine Dion, hands-down.