The title HERE I AM for gospel star Marvin Sapp’s eighth and latest album is more than a little ironic when one considers that “Never Would Have Made It” from his 2007 release Thirsty has been among the most ubiquitous gospel songs of the last three years – let alone all time. The mega-selling “Never Would Have Made It” held down the #1 slot at Gospel radio for almost a full year; topped the Urban AC chart (the first to do so since Yolanda Adams’ “Open My Heart”); was a top selling ringtone and ring back, and propelled Thirsty to the top of the gospel charts for 27 weeks. So no one has had any problem finding Marvin Sapp since the ascent of that uplifting anthem. The singing preacher has been spreading his message with pride, reverence and triumph.
How does an artist go about following up such a monumental success? Marvin Sapp’s answer is simple. “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” he states. “I have the same musicians, the same singers and even recorded at the same venue. Why did I do everything the same – because I wanted to produce the same anointing.”
HERE I AM was recorded live on October 16, 2009, in Marvin’s home city of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The recording took place at Resurrection Life Church, a multi-million dollar, state of the art facility that seats up to 5,000. The project – produced by progressive Contemporary Christian music chameleon Aaron Lindsey with vocal direction from the incomparable Myron Butler – crackles with live instrumentation, the energy of the audience, and the soul stirring grace of Marvin’s voice and verses. What Marvin and company have come up with is an album of vintage Marvin Sapp – songs of reassurance, praise and guidance – along with a couple of new musical twists.
“The title track, ‘Here I Am,’ speaks to me as an individual and the things I’ve endured over the last three years since Thirsty,” Marvin explains. “I’m still standing, even under the waves of pressure and difficulties – from sickness in my wife’s life to the more general challenges of my own life.”
The CD’s first single, “Best in Me,” covers a theme that is very familiar in Marvin’s work and is even returned to throughout HERE I AM – that all are worthy in God’s eyes if you seek Him. “It’s for anybody that’s ever been told ‘you’ll never be anything’ or anyone who acknowledges that they have made a mistake in life,” Marvin shares. “They need to understand that no matter how far you have fallen, God can pick you up wherever you are, dust you off and put you on a street called Straight. He sees the best in you when everyone else sees the worst.”
Along with the title track and first single, two other songs from the center portion of the concert form a powerful quadrant of reassurance that is the heart of the album. Those other two songs are “He Has His Hands On You” and “Don’t Count Me Out.”
“‘He Has His Hands on You’ is a song of encouragement, letting people know that what they face as individuals is all part of God’s master plan,” Marvin continues. “It was written by Stan Jones – a phenomenal singer/writer/producer. I’m glad I took a chance with this young writer knowing that what he had to share would be a blessing to many. When I first heard the song, I dove at the opportunity to do it because it speaks to so many people. Many times they feel like giving up because they don’t understand the process of God. Just knowing they are part of his plan can keep them encouraged.”
“‘Don’t Count Me Out’ is my testimony…actually inspired by the life of David,” Marvin explains of the Biblical man that he has come to relate to and write about throughout his career. “It never ceases to amaze me that man is always judging you on your outside when God is looking at your heart. A lot of church folk write people off when they’re down, but God specializes in taking misfits and making masterpieces out of them.”
Marvin drops an up-out-your-seat praise jam titled “Fresh Wind” that is as irresistible as it is righteously funky and infectious. “On that one I went back to my good brother Jonathan Dunn – one of the most prolific singers and musicians of our time,” Marvin states. “‘Fresh Wind’ speaks of how people need to experience an individual revival…by tapping into the Holy Spirit. Some folks think that once they’ve experienced the will of God one time that’s all they need. The truth is that our daily prayer ought to be for God to send a fresh wind on a consistent basis – that we may be replenished in spirit and function the way that He is calling us to function. This song is just some old-fashioned Pentecostal Church!
Most revolutionary of all is the rock-infused anthem “Praise You Forever” – a musical first for Sapp. “I wanted to stretch out and do something totally different,” Marvin confesses. “It’s where we are as a musical society – crossing from gospel to AC. I took a flying leap into another genre believing it would be a positive, edgy challenge for me to try.”
Marvin Sapp was introduced to the gospel community by Fred Hammond as a six year member of the vocal group Commissioned. “I am a preacher – called by God – who happens to sing,” is the way he defines his ministry – which was given its official blessing upon his receiving of the Doctor of Divinity Degree from Aenon Bible College and the Doctor of Ministry Degree from Friends International Christian University. Sapp’s previous releases as a solo artist are the self-titled Marvin Sapp (his solo debut for Word Records – 1996); Grace & Mercy: Live (1997); Nothing Else Matters (1999); I Believe (his 2002 Verity debut); Diary of a Psalmist (2003); Be Exalted (2005) and Thirsty (2007).
When he isn’t spreading the word of God through over 200 preaching and speaking engagements a year, Sapp ministers at The Lighthouse Full Life Center Church in Grand Rapids, where he is senior pastor. By 2012, he hopes to have built a 1,500 seat sanctuary connecting to “FLC.” His ultimate goal: to encourage Believers to elevate their level of worship and praise. And he starts at home with his wife of 18 years, MaLinda and their three children Marvin II, Mikaila and Madisson.
Musing on the pressure of following up the success of that instant classic song, Marvin concludes, “The mind blowing thing about Thirsty is that I put it out without expectation. There was no way to predict that ‘Never Would Have Made It’ would have the impact that it had. I sequenced it as track #11 out of 12…and part of a medley on top of that!
With HERE I AM, I’m just trying to keep the message as clear and concise as possible. Honestly, I’m a little worried about how it will be received…but I did my very best. After that, you let God to do the rest.”