Kirk Franklin first came to crossover prominence in the mid-to-late 1990s as part of the first wave of gospel artists to take the sound and attitude of hip-hop seriously and incorporate them into their work. During that era, those worlds seemed to be miles apart. But time has a way of softening all barriers, and of late, the gospel impulse has firmly entrenched itself into hip-hop’s mainstream.
This year, Mr. Franklin’s spiritual children reached out to claim him as an influence and to work with him as a collaborator — he appeared in focal moments on albums by Kanye West and Chance the Rapper. Mr. Franklin’s version of religious praise is exuberant and complicated, meaning he has been able to find a natural kinship with younger artists who want to find unconventional ways to express their faith, without the sometimes narrow ideological boundaries of gospel music. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.