Ahnwar Yancey Reveals Undisclosed Personal Secrets And Shares New Details On “Everything U Need”
Singer-songwriter and producer Ahnwar Yancey opens up about his faith and family values in an exclusive interview. The gospel artist is keen on devoting himself to the cause of spreading God’s healing power.
Find out more details in a one-on-one interview below:
1. “Everything U Need” music video came out a few months ago and it has a powerful
narrative. It genuinely leaves an impression on the viewer. I know you’ve added your
contribution to its development, but how much of it is based on real life events?
As I said in a previous interview, this song is an ode to all the women I’ve mistreated, especially the woman who is now my wife. I was a mess in my day. If there is a woman reading this who has been on the receiving end of my past recklessness that I have not apologized to, then I want to take this opportunity to ask for your forgiveness. This song is not fantasy. I have dropped the ball at home and in my past relationships, and I am not ashamed to be honest about that and to accept the role I played in the heartbreak I caused.
2. In this new album My Therapy, you address family values and talk about God’s
healing power! Do you believe that creating music brings you closer to God?
No, I wouldn’t say closer, but creating music does bring about a certain healing quality. It’s therapeutic! I can write it down and walk away from it as though the situation has been resolved and healing has ensued. I don’t need to revisit it. Putting my emotions and thoughts on a record really helps me unpack what I may be experiencing at the moment. On this album I tried to convey the highs and lows I experience on my faith journey. Sometimes we’re on fire for the Lord, and we find ourselves “on the block yelling give Jesus your heart”, as expressed in “Too Many Cowards”. And at other times we’re feeling like we’re extremely distant from the Lord and His will, as expressed in “Far Away” … but in the end, he loves his children “To the End”. My Therapy is a mixing bowl of vertical and horizontal experiences, and the feelings that result from those experiences. When I say vertical I mean, my sentiments toward God, and when I say horizontal, I’m talking about my interactions with mankind, particularly women.
3. You used to belong to a group called S.O.L.E., which stands for “Singing Our Life
Experience.” Tell us about how you came to create it and how you decided it was
time to move on? Are you still in touch with the members?
This is a really long story, but the short and skinny of it is, S.O.L.E was a group consisting of friends and family… my two cousins Josh and “O”, my best friend from high school TJ, and his brother-in-law Marcus, who is also a good friend. Four out of five of us ended up going to the same college. This is where S.O.L.E was formed unofficially. I say unofficially because one, we were just messing around, and two, the last member hadn’t completed the circle. Anyway, we sang at a few small events on campus, but we were just having fun. I didn’t realize that we had something until we were invited to sing at the homecoming fashion show. For anyone who’s gone to an HBCU, you know this is pretty major. Word had gotten around campus that we could sing, so they asked us to sing at the show during intermission. That night is when I think we all agreed that we needed to look at this singing thing differently. I still have the video tape of that night. The crowd went bonkers!! Soon afterwards they asked us to sing the National Anthem at the homecoming game. Again, a major opportunity. At this point we were sold. This is when S.O.L.E became a thing, but there was something missing. That missing piece was Marcus. We linked up with him through TJ and S.O.L.E was officially a group. As a group we performed up and down the east coast.
We dropped an album that was completely written, arranged, performed, and produced by us. Believe it or not, fifteen years later it is still being streamed. We performed in front of Matthew Knowles (when he was managing Beyonce) and Wyclef Jean to name a few. We were doing aight from an indie perspective, considering the resources we had back in the early to mid 2000’s. Things came to a head in either 2008 or 2009 when we were at a club for the birthday party of a prominent DJ in the DMV area. She was known for putting people on. We were asked to sing Happy Birthday to her at her party by a mutual acquaintance. It was a good time. However, unbeknownst to my group, God had been dealing with me on a personal and experiential level. I don’t think I had expressed this to any of them honestly. I was holding it close because I wasn’t sure what I was doing or supposed to do with the crisis of belief I was experiencing. It was on this night that we were presented with an opportunity that probably could’ve changed our lives. At least that’s how it was framed. Who knows, right? Well, we were told to think it over. I remember going to the back of Lavar Arrington’s club to talk about what folks thought about the opportunity. Were we all in or not?
Folks had jobs, families, debt etc., so, members of the group wanted to ensure that we weren’t stepping into something that everyone wasn’t committed to. They went around the room and expressed that they were in. My emotions were high and unstable. This is what I had wanted for so long and what we had worked for, but something stronger than my desire for that world was pulling me in the opposite direction. When my turn came, I told them I couldn’t do it. I expressed to them my love for God and how he had been drawing me to himself, and that I was no longer willing to do music that didn’t glorify the Lord in some way. Let’s just say, I disappointed my guys that night. However, it never caused any ill will amongst us. They respected my decision at the end of the day. Not only that, but they have been major supporters of my spiritual journey since that day. TJ has been mixing and co-producing tracks with me ever since. He and Josh are a part of a group we have together called Champions for Christ. It’s the 2022 version of the group my aunt established back in the 90’s. “O” managed my career for a short while before he went to seminary. He is now the Pastor of Temple Hills Baptist Church in MD. Marcus still sings often with a group he’s in with his sister. He also lent his smooth vocals on my first gospel album “The Flesh Vs. The Spirit”. He’s singing the hook on “Tried so Hard”. We’ve also been in talks about collaborating on a track in the very near future. I’ve got it mapped out, we just have to find the time to get it done. Josh also has his own landscaping business. The video I recently posted on IG singing Happy Birthday was at his party. So yeah, we’re all good and still keep in touch. No love lost. See, I told you it was a long story. And trust me, that was the short version. You probably wouldn’t believe the minutia if I told you.
4. What’s the favorite track off of your recent album? Are you currently working on
releasing new material? How do you see your music adapting to the current times?
Do you put in effort to stay relevant in a constantly changing world?
My favorite track on this album is “The Veil”. Hands down. This is probably that song on the album that nobody else in the world likes but me, but it doesn’t matter. It is my fav and it had to go on the project. This song is what CHH would probably consider to be “Theology Music”, specifically the 2nd verse. I say that to say, it might go over your head if you’re not familiar with the biblical references I’m using. It may come across as gibberish to some if you’re not hip to the jargon. I was inspired to write this song after a theological debate with an inmate during one of my visits to a nearby jail. I guess after that conversation I was in my feelings, and in my own passive aggressive way this is what resulted. I told you; this album is My Therapy. Unfortunately, I have to be cryptic about this particular experience to protect the young man, but this is pretty much my response to him. You can hear in certain places that I’m addressing someone in particular if you listen, but that’s all I’ll say on that. Again, if you weren’t there then it may come across as all over the place, and if you don’t know the lingo then most folks will probably skip this one. But I love it!
Regarding new music, Yessir! Got some joints that we’re cooking up as we speak. Stay tuned for that. More music to come.
Onto your next question. You asked how do I see my music adapting to the current times? Well, the instrumentation I create may adapt some, but the content won’t adapt to what is happening in popular culture. I will probably dive into more content about the human experience, but I can’t do what “they” do. I’ve been called to something different. Something bigger than material things and debauchery. Honestly, I would like the industry to adapt in this direction. It’ll never do that if we jump ship.
Your last question was about relevance. I think that is the good thing about Gospel music. The good news is always relevant to someone. God’s love is always relevant. Forgiveness, mercy and justice are always relevant topics. I just got hip recently to a song Rance Allen recorded decades ago called “I Belong to You”. In this song he’s expressing the comfort we receive by belonging to God. I love that song like it just came out yesterday. A song he made when I was a kid speaks to me in a relevant way today. It’s going to do the same thing to someone else 100 years from now. God never goes out of style.
5. I love the fact that you incorporate different genres in your music. How did you
realize that it’s okay not to limit yourself to specific standards and succumb to the
pressure of what gospel music should sound like? When did you feel comfortable
and confident enough to experiment with the genre?
I think I’m just mimicking the pioneers. They showed us that the instrumentation changes as new generations come on the scene. Mahalia Jackson infused Jazz and Blues in her music. From what I hear that wasn’t well received initially. That Rance Allen song I mentioned earlier definitely sounds like R&B and not the gospel music of the 70’s and 80’s. Kirk Franklin as of recently flipped the whole genre when he came out. I think we all remember how the church fought for years against him, and now that’s the prominent style you hear in black churches. So not only did the pioneers give us the courage to usher in change, but they also showed us that the old guard will fight against it, and that the struggle between the old and the new is a part of the process. Just keep glorifying God with your gifts and let Him handle the rest.
6. You’ve mentioned before in an interview that you love to give back to your
community! Are there any new exciting projects in mind? How do you try and help
Yes, giving back is a must. We just had our annual Back to School event last week. It was packed as usual. We gave away tons of school supplies and cash to help relieve parents of the financial stress that comes along with every school year. We had horses, food, and a game truck. It’s always a good time for the community. The people in the neighborhood look forward to it and I’m so happy the Lord has allowed the resources to continue to flow so we can keep it coming. On the day of the Back-to-School event we advertised that the studio located on the church property is now open for every willing soul who has a heart to create positive music. It doesn’t have to be gospel or Christian music, but it has to be “clean”. We are doing this for those who don’t have the resources to procure expensive studio equipment, and for those who don’t want to learn the technical aspect of the engineering process. Some people just want to make music, but they don’t have the resources to do it or the know-how. That’s where we come in. This is our attempt at giving the youth another option to help keep them off the streets and cultivate the next generation of artists. We do have something new coming up soon for the youth in our community. This outreach program is not music based, but it would provide the youngins with an opportunity to stack a lil bread, but it is still in the works. I’m praying that I’ll be able to say more soon.
7. You’re a versatile musician, but your music is considered gospel centric. Will you
ever be creating songs that are purely R&B or Hip-Hop?
Yeah, I think I already did that. Actually, it has caused a lil fuss. “Everything U Need” and “Moment” have not been completely accepted in some Christian circles. Those songs are viewed as “secular” music. Unfortunately, if it’s not clearly Praise and Worship music it is not viewed favorably in most of Christendom. What’s interesting is, you walked away with the conclusion that the body of work that I presented on this album was gospel centric. I did too. But the church didn’t… go figure.
8. Negligence, indifference, and forgiveness are revolving topics in your songs! We
usually easily forgive the ones we love, but it’s really difficult to forgive ourselves!
What is it like for you? How do you let go of the guilt?
Guilt? What guilt? This is the great thing about Jesus. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines guilt as “having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty”, and as “a feeling of deserving blame for offenses.” According to this definition, why should I as a believer in Christ be obsessed with my guilt when scripture has proclaimed that Jesus took on himself the penalty of our offenses and died the death we deserved (because of our sin)? He died to free me from my guilt. And we are all guilty of sin before God. All have sinned and fallen short of his glory. But Colossians 1:22 says, “But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation”. If his death makes me holy, without blemish and free from accusation in God’s eyes, then why am I still preoccupied with guilt? It has been removed forever. That load has been taken from my shoulders. Believe God folks. Stop tripping off stuff that he has thrown behind his back and remembers no more (Hebrews 8:12, Isaiah 38:17, 43:25, Jeremiah 31:34, 33:8). You’re the only one that matters who’s still dwelling on it. My apologies if I over-simplified your question, but as a believer, my guilt is no more.
9. “Everything U Need” is all about setting priorities straight! Having a music career is
quite demanding, how do you manage work-life balance?
My wife has actually answered this question recently. She expresses that I am much better than I used to be in a lot of areas. I had to learn the hard way though. Lots of trial and error. I think years of being single fosters selfishness in us all. You’ve spent years worrying and focusing on yourself and now there’s someone else in the picture who deserves and demands your time and attention. We have to learn how to be married. Folks have to learn how to be “good” parents. It’s not innate. It is a process. Those willing to work through that process tend to come out stronger on the other side. So, one way I’ve managed is by keeping my family involved. This keeps us connected and communicating. My wife has been on the set of all my videos, she’s the first one to give her opinion on the music I create, I make sure she is invited to every show etc. etc. She doesn’t come to everything because she understands that we need space from time to time, but it has been helpful. We had also started a mandatory date night that has fallen through the cracks as of late. This question is a reminder that I need to get the ball rolling on that again.
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