Hezekiah Walker has experienced some major developments since the release of his last album nearly 5 years ago. For one, he became Bishop of the Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ Fellowship, providing leadership to more than 30 churches around the country in addition to the Kunjalo Diocese in Cape Town, South Africa that he oversees - all while remaining Senior Pastor of his thriving Love Fellowship Tabernacle in Brooklyn, New York and Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Secondly, Walker has become a mainstay on New York radio where he hosts a popular mid-day show for WLIB and a Sunday morning show for WBLS. Most recently, he created the Azusa Next Generation conference that brings together the nation's most prominent pastors, speakers and worship leaders, ultimately revitalizing a defining moment in the Christian faith. The next conference will be held May 19 at the Jacob Javitz Center in New York.
With each of these developments, Walker is motivated by his commitment to Kingdom relevancy. "One must continue to evolve so that the Kingdom can stay fresh, exciting and most of all relevant," says Walker. He pours this passion for Kingdom relevancy into his upcoming CD AZUSA THE NEXT GENERATION, being released June 11 on RCA Inspiration.
"This project honors the legacy of hand clapping, foot stomping Gospel music and also provides a next generation swag that creates a foundation for where Gospel music can go," says Walker. "It has a variety of styles, and the collaborations really make it stand out. It is a next level project for me and, I think, for Gospel music."
Azusa is cited as the catalyst for the charismatic movement in the United States, and had two significant phases. It began in 1906 with an unprecedented, powerful revival held on Azusa Street in Southern California then, in the 80s, was introduced as a conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that featured dynamic preaching and a who's who of Gospel artists. The artists would record together at the conference and, with AZUSA THE NEXT GENERATION, Hezekiah Walker revisits that spirit of collective worship. The album features guest appearances by Timiney Figueroa; Deitrick Haddon; John P. Kee; Donnie McClurkin and Brian Courtney Wilson. Walker's robust Love Fellowship Choir is also featured prominently, and is expanded here to comprise the 500 voice Azusa Mass Choir.
"With the collaborations, I wanted to let people know there are artists out there who love choir sounding songs and who don't mind singing choir songs," says Walker. "Part of my musical mission is reminding people that choir music is not going out of style, ever. When you have vocalists like these who love choir music, it will always thrive."
The first single à EVERY PRAISE is currently a favorite at Gospel radio. The song debuted on the Yolanda Adams Morning Show, and Adams said: "Bishop Hez has done it again!" "'Every Praise' is the epitome of worship and its proper direction!"
Hezekiah Walker says the song is likely to catch on quickly because it is relatable across genres, nationalities and denominations. "Whether they go to church or not, people have a praise in them that is reserved for God," says Walker. "This song connects with a feeling of thanksgiving and honor that everyone has at some point. I hope that choirs and praise teams will gravitate to it, and that it crosses boundaries to people outside of the church as well."
Joel Osteen, one of the nation's most influential pastors, heard "Every Praise" on the radio in Houston and simply fell in love with it and immediately invited Walker to minister the song at Lakewood, which he did on April 14. "It was my honor to welcome Hezekiah Walker to our church," says Osteen. "We here at Lakewood love him and were excited that he performed 'Every Praise' with our church choir," says Osteen.
"That was just an incredible experience that I will never forget," Walker adds. "I did all three services, and there were at least 16,000 members in each one! The church loved the song. I was amazed to see thousands leaving worship singing 'Every Praise.' It was an honor to worship with the Lakewood family, and I thank Pastor Joel Osteen for the warm welcome."
AZUSA THE NEXT GENERATION was co-produced by Hezekiah Walker and produced by Donald Lawrence, who also produced Walker's last release - SOULED OUT. The two have a winning combination that balances the contemporary and the traditional while amplifying Walker's straight-to-the-heart worship style.
"The project is about unity, and I feel really good about it," says Walker. "This is the first time in the history of my career that I've done collaborations with so many artists. This is monumental for me. That's what it's all about in this season, us coming together and letting the world know that it is possible for us to stand together as one."
AZUSA THE NEXT GENERATION will be in stores June 11. It can be pre-ordered now at Amazon.com.