Many beginnings are wrought in heat and light. Blinding energy. Raw elements surging and changing and breaking down until a new creation is revealed. Some beginnings are wrought over apple pie and ice cream.
Trinitee 5:7-the breakout female trio whose funky, urban 1998 debut stormed across the country on the tails of the group's opening slot for Kirk Franklin's "Nu Nation" tour-found itself at a crossroads last spring. Founding member Terri Brown-Britton left the successful group to be a stay-at-home mom, a move that left Chanelle Haynes and Angel Taylor with some big decisions to make. They were scheduled to record their sophomore album-what was to become Spiritual Love (B-Rite)-and they hadn't even stepped into the studio.
"We may have been concerned for a short time," Taylor says, "but we just knew that something was gonna happen. We had no idea who would come in; we just kinda knew that it was gonna work. We had faith."
During this transition period, high school pals Haynes and Taylor traveled from their home base in New Orleans to Los Angeles and found time to hang out with Adrian Anderson, their make-up artist who had become a close friend over the previous year and a half.
"We never discussed singing together or anything like that," Anderson recalls. "They just came to my apartment, and we sat and talked about our hopes and dreams-nothing industry related. I knew they were in a period of transition, but I didn't know who the new member of the group would be."
Little did Anderson know it would be her
"Later on that night we were sitting at my table, and we were having apple pie and ice cream. Then I looked up and saw they were staring at me. I asked if I missed a joke. But they asked if I would sing something for them! So I sang part of a song. When I finished, they said, 'What do you think about joining Trinitee?' I just looked at them: 'Are you serious?'"
Anderson gained several years experience singing in local girl groups as a teenager but never tackled singing on this level. "They told me that I harmonize really well. But since my voice is light, I told them they probably would need someone with more rasp," she remembers, adding with a chuckle, "But they said, 'You don't tell us what we want! We know!'"
Anderson told Haynes and Taylor she would consider their offer and pray about it. The decision wasn't so simple-Anderson was in the midst of a burgeoning career and was looking to start her own company. "I didn't see it coming," she adds. "My vision was in a different place when this came about. But I realized that you make plans-and God laughs!"
A week later, Haynes and Taylor could wait no longer. "They called me and asked if I had made up my mind yet. I said I hadn't," Anderson recalls with another giggle. "But they said, 'Hey! This is enough time!' I did receive peace, and I was confident that I would be able to contribute to the ministry of Trinitee."
Then the whirlwind began. Just days after joining the group, Anderson was in concert with Trinitee 5:7. "It happened so easily," Taylor recalls. "We thought we'd have to work for it. But before the first show, we just listened to the songs we needed to perform while we got dressed and did makeup."
"I knew all the songs, but I had only two hours to practice with them before we ran out on stage!" Anderson notes with amazement. "I grabbed a Scripture before going out there. 'I'm not walking into a spirit of fear,' I prayed. 'Let me do this right, Lord. Let me minister those songs.' It was one of the best shows I've ever experienced. Even though I was new to Trinitee, I wasn't new to Angela and Chanelle. They've been really welcoming."
While Anderson got her feet wet onstage with the group, she sang with Taylor and Haynes in the studio and got choreography down during intense rehearsals.
"Adrian has brought such flavor and beauty to the group," Haynes notes. "And we've all evolved from young girls to more mature girls because of some of the things we've experienced."
Those experiences have contributed to a record that Haynes characterizes as "from our hearts." Indeed four of the tracks on Spiritual Love are co-written and co-produced by Taylor, Haynes and Anderson-something that wasn't done by the group's members on its debut.
Haynes proudly points to the musical diversity of Spiritual Love as well, noting the rock flavor of songs like "How Ya Livin'," the pop sense of the title track and the traditional Walter Hawkins' classic. "Highway," as examples of growth beyond Trinitee 5:7's urban/R&B foundations. "Sophomore albums are always the big challenge," Haynes admits. "But we want to attract a wider audience with this one."
Another song the group helped write, "We Know," is Trinitee 5:7's answer to a lot of talk "...about whether we're really a gospel group (or) if we were a secular group trying to sing gospel," Haynes reveals. "We found out that a lot of people weren't convinced that we were saved and loved God and were His children. So this song is about grace. We're not fussin' at them, but we're letting them know that we know who we are. We understand our purpose."
The fact that Trinitee 5:7 has a glamorous look, an honest-to-goodness, funky musical vibe, and works with general market producers and songwriters like R. Kelly and Fred Jerkins III hasn't helped their image with some Christians. "Even looking at (artists) at our label, Kirk Franklin-people say he dances too much; Gospel Gangstas-they're too cutting edge, too hardcore. And here's Trinitee-they're too sexy or too beautiful," Haynes continues. "We knew when we signed to B-Rite we'd hear these things, but we've persevered. And we're very, very proud of who we are. God's given us this measure of success, and we know that He's with us."
A quick look at the title of one track, "My Body," might cause some to do a double take-that is, until they hear the lyrics: "My body is the Lord's temple/Don't mess with me/I'm God's property." Haynes explains, "in a lot of cases, guys are the aggressors, and girls won't say anything. But we hope this song puts a fire under young women, telling them to be strong and convicted."
Taylor's favorite tune is one that she and Haynes collaborated on-"If They Only Knew"-which, in many ways, captures the goals and purposes of Trinitee 5:7. "The song is dedicated to our peers," Taylor reveals. "We're trying to get them to understand why we have the relationship we do with Christ and that it'd mean a lot to us for them to accept Christ into their lives. We have so many friends and peers at home who ask, 'Why don't you sing R&B like everyone else?' Well, it's because we're concerned about people's hearts and souls."
And that concern extends to the general market artists they admire and work with. "Some of them know we're Christians," Haynes explains. "They come up to us like they're going to confession. But we just encourage them that God loves them and we love them and that they should use their gifts for God. But don't allow the church to tell you what you're destined to be. That's God's job. We just try to be living testimonies and love them with the love of Christ."
"Originally published in the February 2000 issue of CCM Magazine, copyright 2000, CCM Communications. Reprinted with permission. For CCM Magazine subscription information, please call: 800/333-9643."