“Although I love God\’s people, I can\’t waste years trying to break this mentality and use that as an excuse for not doing what God told me to do.” — Shei Atkins
With these and other words, singer, Shei Atkins announced via an open letter published at Gospel Hip Hop site, DaSouth.com, that she is leaving Gospel to become an R&B artist. Atkins, a former Grammy-nominated artist went on to explainÂ her decision-making process (see below) and offered strong opinions about Gospel audiences as “judgmental.”
She finished her personal note with these words:
I want to say that regardless of what genre of music I sing, know that I’m on a mission for God to go out INTO the world and be a godly example. Luke 5:10 says â€œFear not, from now on you will be ï¬shing for people.â€ And that\’s what I am doing; becoming all things to all men that I may by all means save some. If you can’t see and understand my vision, just pray for me. Don’t judge me. My music may not be for you, but know that I am reaching people and that I’m on God’s side.
What do you think about Shei’s letters and her decision to drop the “Gospel” label? How can a person tell when they are fulfilling the Great Commission or whether something else is at work? We’d love to hear your thoughts!
Here is a copy of the original letter:
For those of you who don’t know me, I am Shei Atkins. I am the artist of three albums. My ï¬rst one â€œLife in Stereoâ€ came out in ’04. The second one â€œThe Lita Mae Showâ€ came out in \’05 and my third one â€œGirl Talkâ€ came out in â€˜07. It’s been 3 years since I’ve released an album. I’m currently working on my fourth project â€œEmotionalâ€ which will be out soon.
Why has it been so long you ask? I had to pray and get direction from God and learn some things before I came back out conï¬dently. I was able to write and release my book “Get a Man, Keep a Man” during the break. This has truly been a journey for me. When God revealed to me that He wanted to use me, I wasn\’t given a blueprint or a roadmap with exact directions. All I knew was that I loved God, had a passion for relationships and helping women through adversity, and wanted to make music to help bring healing and joy to them.
All of my previous albums have a mixture of R&B and Gospel on them so some people were always confused about what style of music I sang. I just wanted to help people and wasn\’t caught up into genres and didn\’t know anything about marketing.
I’ve been with my husband for 14 years, and we almost didn’t make it our ï¬rst year of marriage. We survived our storm and what I went through in my marriage ignited a passion in me to help relationships and marriages. It\’s evident that families are under major attack. I make songs to help instill love, honesty, faithfulness and communication back into relationships. The thing is that when some people heard R&B on my albums they were like, this is not gospel and the judgment began.
My albums were not what you would call a traditional gospel album. Even though my songs â€œHe Can Fix Itâ€ and â€œLord I Love Youâ€ got major air play, those songs weren\’t all of who I am. It was songs like â€œTemptationâ€ that made me unique and kicked off my career. â€œTemptationâ€ was very trendsetting and risky with lyrics like â€œboy you keep on saying just let me stick the h#$d in and you can\’t have none.â€ But it was the truth. I was afraid to do it in the churches at ï¬rst but I know it needed to be heard. The song was very risky but the youth and youth pastors loved it and the word spread about it. I was in high demand to the point where I was traveling in and out of state to sing it and the response was always amazing. I feel that the songs are awesome, because keeping it real and telling it like it is in my music is what made me unique and set me apart. Gospel Radio wouldn\’t play songs like â€œTemptationâ€ but that doesn\’t take away from the fact that the song was catching and impacting teens around the world.
My music can\’t be put in a box. When it comes down to business, labels want to know how they will be able to market you and make money with your product no matter what your personal vision is. My tolerance level was getting low with the judgment.
I had fans who loved me on one side and people condemning me on the other side calling me worldly, pulling me to the side at some of my shows about my hair color, sending in mean letters, etc. I understand that everyone wouldn’t see my vision, but it got to the point to where I just wanted to give up. I wasn’t doing anything wrong, BUT I wasn’t embraced by gospel all the way, and looking back, I can see where the confusion came in.
The messed up thing about the Christian community is that there is a religious and judgmental mentality inside of it that holds us back and keeps us from loving people when it comes to music. When I took my time off to pray and get clarity of my purpose, God reminded me that romance is His idea and He led me to the Book of Song of Solomon in the Bible. Song of Solomon is a book of love songs and poems from Solomon & His bride to each other. It\’s very romantic. They even praise each other and their body parts in the book. That showed me that God didn\’t have a problem with romance and love songs, it\’s man. The mentality that someone is compromising or backsliding for singing other genres\’ was passed down in the church from generation to generation and that is not true. If the truth be told, there are some good and bad apples in gospel as well as other genres\’.
Because of my purpose, when it comes down to marketing and promotion, Shei Atkins is best marketed as an R&B artist. Why? Because doing R&B allows me to make the music God put in me to make and be free without boundaries of what I can and what I can\’t talk about. Does this mean I will never make a gospel album or sing gospel songs? â€œNo, thats not what that meansâ€. I can\’t sing about life, love, and relationships under the Gospel title. It\’s not because I don\’t want to. It\’s because of the mentality a lot of Christians have about music.
Although I love God\’s people, I can\’t waste years trying to break this mentality and use that as an excuse for not doing what God told me to do. We have the part where we accept Him in our life and become saved. Then we have the part where Christianity needs to be applied. That\’s where my music comes in. I deal with life, love and relationships. I can\’t speak for anyone else, but that\’s my call. Just because you\’re saved doesn\’t mean you know how to be a wife or a husband. Just because you\’re saved doesn\’t mean you\’re a good parent. If you\’re not good with money, it doesn\’t matter how saved you are, you won\’t pay your bills on time and your bank account will be in the negative, etc. This thing doesn\’t stop after salvation. We need wisdom and we need to learn certain principles to apply to our life on earth so that we can live the abundant life God wants us to live and be successful in every area of our lives. But there are so many people without that revelation because we\’re so focused on a genre. People write me every day about how to handle different situations in their marriage and relationships or just letting me know how my music has helped their life and relationships. People need what God has put inside of me. Do you know that about 50% of CHRISTIAN marriages end in divorce? But I was judged for singing songs that spoke life into people.
That hurt me so bad. What we have to understand as Christians is that the body of Christ is bigger than a music genre. If you are a ï¬nger in the body of Christ, you can’t look at the toe trying to get it to function like a ï¬nger. Every part of the body of Christ is unique and beneï¬cial and if we all work together, we would be so much more powerful. God is more concerned about HOW you live than WHAT genre you\’re categorized in. The word does say you can tell a tree by its fruit. And when a person has a relationship with God, they’ll be cautious of what comes out of their mouth and very cautious of how they use their inï¬‚uence. We are all a work in progress and grow at different levels. You don\’t know what God will do in a person\’s life. You can’t be so busy judging people that you don’t have time to love them. Even if you don’t agree with what a person does, loving them will win them over way before condemning them will. We have to show people Christ by our love.
Singing background for Kelly Rowland overseas, I got a chance to hang with some very great people such as Wyclef, Kim Burse, (Beyonce’s Creative Director) and many others. From the Kelly Rowland experience, I learned that God places people in our life for a reason and he opens doors for us to go places to be a blessing to others and vice versa. God used Kim Burse to be a blessing to me at a time when I had given up on Shei Atkins because of what I was going through. God used her to be a light & spark a ï¬re in me to let me know that I am special and not forgotten and she didn\’t know my situation until I told her. There are people who don’t know God or read His word, but they see us. We can hinder people from seeing God in us if all they see is ï¬nger pointing. I want to say that regardless of what genre of music I sing, know that I’m on a mission for God to go out INTO the world and be a godly example. Luke 5:10 says â€œFear not, from now on you will be ï¬shing for people.â€ And that\’s what I am doing; becoming all things to all men that I may by all means save some. If you can’t see and understand my vision, just pray for me. Don’t judge me. My music may not be for you, but know that I am reaching people and that I’m on God’s side.