Contemporary gospel icon Kirk Franklin says he’s simply “very grateful” over the reception for his 11th album, “Hello Fear.” The set, his first studio album in four years and his debut for Verity Records, is Franklin’s first album since 2002 to debut in the Top 10 of the Billboard 200 — No. 5 when it was released in March — while “I Smile” is his first Hot 100-charting single in six years.

“I’m very thankful, man,” Franklin tells “I think it’s a beautiful album, a beautiful, incredible record. It’s one of the most cohesive bodies of work that God has given me. There are about three or four albums I’ve done that are like that, that have that cohesiveness. It’s really been a gift.”

And Franklin freely credits the album’s virtues to a higher power, a surrender he says has been “life-changing to me.” “Y’know, man, God just really dropped some incredible song ideas in my heart,” he explains. “Like, I was walking by the piano one day, and that’s when the lyrics came to ‘Hello Fear;’ ‘Before you sit down there’s something I need to explain…’ — Whoa! That kind of caught my attention. So I’m comfortable now, at this season in my life, letting God drive and sitting in the passenger seat. It’s the best way; instead of trying to force it and contrive it, when the music flows like water, you never have to worry about what’s coming next.”

As for that, Franklin may be looking at something to commemorate the 20th anniversary of The Family, the large ensemble he formed during 1992 and lasted until 2000, when Franklin went solo. The group reunited for the 25th annual Stellar Awards in 2010, but Franklin says that a 20-year celebration “might be something cool to do if the Lord allows me to be around. But that feels way off, man, so I don’t know what might happen.”

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