When you think of the local music scene, church might not be the first thing that comes to mind. In the South, however, the roots of the church run deep through any music scene. Our latest Music Issue’s cover story on Fannie Mae’s Sainted Trap Choir paints a picture of how the connections between gospel and modern hip-hop thrive today.
But true gospel ain’t dead, either, and Melvin Crispell III is here to spread that message.
On July 1, Crispell celebrated the release of his new album, No Failure, at his home church, Life Center Charlotte. That’s where he took part in the youth choir in middle school following his move from Brooklyn, New York, in 2006, coming up under a mother and father who were both nationally known in the gospel scene. He remembers the aughts as a time when the gospel scene in Charlotte was as strong as ever.
“Charlotte used to have so many concerts and events that were centered around gospel music, and hopefully one day we can get back to a place where we highlight gospel music in Charlotte,” he told Queen City Nerve.
Crispell also remembers traveling around the country performing at praise events with his parents: Melvin Crispell Jr., who composed and played on award-winning songs for some of gospel music’s biggest artists; and Tunesha Crispell, a celebrated gospel singer in her own right whose voice was featured on several well-known choir recordings along with a critically acclaimed solo project.
He lost his father suddenly at the age of 16, followed by his mother’s death two years later, which sent him spiraling into despair. The onset of COVID-19, shutting down events like First Friday Praise Fest that had kept him afloat in his time of loss, only made things worse.
Crispell poured himself into his music, a hybrid of contemporary R&B sound and worship music inspired by old-school gospel. He confronted much of the darkness he was dealing with in his debut album, I’ve Got a Testimony, released in 2020.
Now 26, Crispell says No Failure is an album that traces his path of healing through faith, just as the country begins to heal from what it’s lost over the last three years. He hopes we can move forward together, with gospel playing the role it was meant to play and returning to the forefront of Charlotte’s music scene.
“Gospel music is never dead, especially in Charlotte, as long as there’s a few of us who are carrying the torch and still singing, still making music, and you see that every day,” he said. “I think we can get back to that place, but the people have to support, too … So it’s just something that we have to work on and work at to make it a bigger, more relevant thing.”
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