Darrel, 28, Ahjah, 21, Paco, 23, and Rhea, 24 of The Walls Group
Warryn Campbell, owner and founder of the record label My Block Inc. recently released a compilation album, “Warryn Campbell presents My Block Inc.” featuring songs from all the artists on his label including songs from Mary Mary, Erica Campbell, Joi Starr, MC Lyte, Jason Champion, Jason McGee, Toni Estes and The Walls Group. In anticipation of the album’s release, we spoke with Campbell and members of The Walls Group, Darrel, Paco, Ahjah, and Rhea about the challenges and blessings of singing gospel music as young people, Kanye’s Sunday Service and dating in their twenties.
MN: How did the single “High and Lifted” come to be?
Warryn: I was on vacation. I knew I needed a Walls Group song. I was literally in this bungalow where we’re staying. I did the beat and I sent it to them and they sent it back, just like you hear it on the record. It’s all them.
MN: So you all wrote the lyrics?
Warryn: And did the vocal arrangements, the whole nine.
Paco: Ahjah usually starts things off.
Ahjah: Darrel did the chorus first. Starts singing the chorus. And then Paco had his lyrics ready. He’s a poet.
Paco: Street poet.
Ahjah: He had his first verse and it had to come in strong. So I said, ‘I think I’m going to do the second verse’ and I did. And then we had a little bridge and then we had a song.
MN: How quickly did that come together?
Darrel: Maybe two days.
Warryn: Really? It seemed way faster to me.
Darrel: It was like five minutes but to complete it for real, two days.
Warryn: I was still on vacation when I got it back. I played it for my wife and she was like, ‘They just did this?’ Sometimes you sign a group or an artist and you don’t know what you’ve got until you start working. That’s how I feel about the Walls Group. We did an album but then signing them and working with them, I’m starting to realize what I stepped into. It’s like a never-ending matrix of creativity.
MN: Darrel, I know that you initially were going to sing R&B music. Was there hesitancy to come over to the gospel side?
Darrel: I’ve always been in church but I was a musician. I didn’t want to sing. I could sing but I was musician guy. I wanted to do R&B because I just wanted to do that. That’s where the women were.
Paco: They’re everywhere.
Darrel: It wasn’t a kick and scream but it was definitely a tantrum. I remember, I was a freshman in college and I was like, ‘I can’t…I don’t want to do this [college] for four years. So God, make something happen. This gotta happen like now.’ So in my mind, because I prayed the prayer, I’m thinking Warryn Campbell is going to find me somewhere, we were going to do something. But what happened was our video went viral and churches started calling. I was like, ‘That’s beautiful but..’ It wasn’t until we all had a conversation and it was like this is happening, clearly this is what we’re supposed to do. I don’t fight God but for maybe once.
MN: Did the rest of you have similar struggles or were you on board from jump?
Paco: We were really young.
Ahjah: I don’t think we realized what we were agreeing to. We sang together because my mom used to make us, ‘Hey, sing this part.’ We all had our own stuff going on. Rhea was actually running track. Track star.
Rhea: I did not [want to sing.] I refused. And I think my junior year, I pulled my hamstring. And I was like, ‘Dang, that danggone God!’ I just told them I wasn’t going to do this and now look.
Ahjah: It was a crazy journey because as kids we had to give up a lot. We didn’t have time to hang out and be kids. I almost didn’t finish high school because we were gone so much. I think that’s how we knew that this is the call for us. There’s no way I should have been able to finish school and still keep up with what we were doing at the time. We all had our struggles internally but we’re here.
MN: You said that you were really young when you started, so do the songs hit differently now that you’re older and singing with a little bit more life experience?
Paco: We write the songs now.
Ahjah: The songs can relate to you in a different way. I listen to the song “Mighty You Are”…
Rhea: Quickens Aah ooo.
Darrel: You understand exactly what you’re singing about more than just liking what you’re singing.
Ahjah: I was on the plane in full worship. I had my hands up. The stewardess tapped me and asked if I needed anything.
Rhea: I listen to it now and I’m like, ‘This is a great song.’ I actually want to re-do the song and re-release it.
MN: Re-release it because your voices are different?
Rhea: The song is so powerful. We hated the song. I hated the song. I was like, ‘This song too slow.’ But go sit in the closet, turn the lights off and you put that song in your ear, it’s going to be a good time. I mean, turn the world off and listen to the music.
MN: I wanted to ask you about the song “Satisfied.” My boss sent me this article that was basically like for a lot of millennials, work has become a new religion. We define ourselves solely by what we’ve accomplished and if we don’t feel worthy if we haven’t achieved certain milestones by certain times. And “Satisfied” speaks to that. So I wanted to know how that song came about and what does it mean to you all.
Darrel: The funny thing about it is, we didn’t write the song. Kirk Franklin actually wrote the song and it was an absolutely incredible song and we loved it from the beginning. But the thing about it was, in the space that we were, it was very personal for us. And we gravitated to the song immediately. Because it was like we have been working for a long time. We don’t have that house or that car.
Warryn: How many years had it been since you guys had been working before that song?
Paco: 5-6 years.
Warryn: I asked that because that’s like two days in my experience. But at the time it seemed like a long time.
Darrel: It seems like a long time because you’ve graduated college…
MN: Six years is like a third of your life.
Darrel: You’re trying to figure it out. I’m tired of living with my momma and my daddy. Something gotta happen. What’s going on? But here comes this song that says if I never get the house, never get the car. You really start having to develop a relationship with Christ, for sure. It becomes really real to say ‘You know what, I need to get this now so that when I do turn 30 and nothing happens or if I do get this stuff and it goes away, it doesn’t mess with my mental. We’ll be okay.’
Ahjah: I read a devotion the other morning that talked about the things that we place value on in life, our petty grievances and the things that overtake us, and the things that we worry about, God says, instead of worrying about it and complaining about it, be grateful for the things you do have. I adopt an attitude of gratitude for my family. I have great friends. I woke up today. The little things we feel entitled to. If we shift our perspective we can be grateful for the real works that God is doing in our lives.
Paco: She actually got me because I used to tweet this thing, ‘What are y’all mad about today?’ She said, try ‘What are you grateful for today?’
MN: I do want to ask all of you something, Warryn I know you’ve worked with Kanye. The church and people who’ve grown up in the church have a lot of varied opinions about Sunday Service and what it is, what it means, whether it’s in line with spiritual teachings or not. So I wanted to get your thoughts on Sunday Service.
Darrel: I love it.
Ahjah: I truly do.
Paco: I love it too. I was very, very estranged for a second because I grew up really, really Kanye heavy. My brother used to wake up and play, “Good Morning.” I was like, ‘Who is this guy?’ But once he started changing up a little bit, I was hurt by that a lot. So when he first started Sunday Service, I was like, ‘I’m good.’ But it took me paying attention. It took me watching like one video. You really can see his heart. I could see that it was very spiritual.
Darrel: And what I think is dope is because of his intention, his heart for it, he’s sowing seeds. Even though they might not know that they’re getting seed sowed into them, later it will manifest in some type of way.
Warryn: You can also judge the sincerity by the necessity. He doesn’t need to do that. He doesn’t need to open a church or whatever he’s doing. I knew that right away because I have a relationship with him. So when I saw it, I was like this is something different Kanye’s doing. Then he called me one day and says, ‘I’m going to do Coachella, Sunday Service. Can you come down here and help me do something?’ So me and my wife drive down there, talked to him and he showed me a song list and he wanted scriptures to go with every song. I started thinking about how significant that is. I’ve known Kanye for a very long time. I met Kanye the night he had his accident. We were both producing an album called State Property with Beanie Sigel. I’ve known him since then and I’ve never heard him say anything about church, God, anything. So to go from that, all the way here, it must be something to it. Then we did that and one day he calls me to come and preach at his Sunday Service. I said okay. So I came and did that. Two weeks later, he called and said, ‘Can I bring my Sunday Service to your church?’ I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ He did and it was amazing. He brought 150 singers, 100 member drumline. He brought Torrei Kelly with him. It was just an amazing time and he was super sincere. It wasn’t even him. He wasn’t the focal point. He was standing off to the side, worshipping with everybody else. And I just saw his heart. And that’s what it is. Anything he’s involved with, he goes in 155 % and he’s just wit it. You go to his house, he has photocopied scriptures on the wall, just staring at them. He’s like, ‘I got to learn about this whole armor of God.’ So, he’s sincere.
And I’m not with the culture, you’ve got to meet our approval before you can do whatever.
Ahjah: Nobody is anybody to determine someone’s walk with God. People need to keep their opinions to themselves.
Warryn: So kudos to Kanye and his family. I think we all ought to pray for him because as he’s trying to walk that walk, there will be people taking shots at him. He’ll be under attack from people he probably even trusted. He’s committed to it. He’s saying, ‘I don’t want to do any other music but gospel music at this point.’ And he don’t have to.
MN: Singing and ministering to people can be a heavy—I don’t want to say burden but I’m sure people are like, ‘You sing gospel, let me unload on you.’
Darrel: It is a burden.
Ahjah: I think we feel it a lot from our personal friend groups but even more so from people who don’t even know you. I look at DMs because I like to talk to people and respond to people. And what I find in my DMs are a lot of people who need a word or need advice. And they just expect you to have answers. And most times—I’m a preachy person so it’s cool. And most times I do have a word. But people expect to be their genie. When I call on you, you need to have an answer. I’m still trying to figure my life out too. I teach as I’m being taught. I’m learning and as I’m learning I’m helping people. It’s not that I have these answers out of nowhere. It does weigh down on you a little bit But I’m learning to delegate my time.
Darrel: But it also helps with [not condemning people.] You can’t treat people like you have it all together. The Bible says there is no condemnation. You can’t make people feel that way because that’s not what Christ would do and that’s not how Jesus did it in the first place.
MN: What types of experiences are you guys running into in the dating world?
Paco: I’m running into the single experience. I’m in full sprint.
MN: So you guys are not thinking about marriage or anything like that at this point.
Ahjah: We’re dating and figuring things out.
Paco: I was thinking about it. When I was younger that was the thing I really wanted to do. I was like, ‘I’m going to be married by 21.’ I was in a relationship like this has got to be it. And it wasn’t it.
Ahjah: I was engaged last year. I know for sure that I want to be married but I think as a I get older, and learn myself I know that the type of partner that I need, they have to be equal mentally. My relationship with God is paramount in my life. And if that’s not your thing, we just can’t–we don’t mesh. Everybody’s walk is different. That’s okay. I just need you to be walking. What I’m saying is want to know him.
The first single from the compilation album is from Erica Campbell called “Praying and Believing.” The video for the single, directed by Meagan Good, is available now. You can watch it below.