Winans Phase 2
- Christianity Today Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2009 4 Mar
"Years ago, when the Winans first started making records, they were breaking down a lot of barriers in Gospel music. Now we feel like it's our opportunity to pick up that same torch and break down the remaining barriers." —Winans Phase 2
It's that old "nature vs. nurture" argument. Are the courses of our lives determined more by the genetic makeup we receive from our parents, or by the environmental influences in which we are raised? Well, in this case you can take your pick, because it works out the same either way. If your last name is Winans, you're probably gonna sing.
Decades ago, when Mom and Pop Winans decided to pursue music as a career, they unwittingly set the course for their children as well. First it was their older sons Carvin II, Marvin, Michael, and Ronald who followed in their footsteps, singing and recording as The Winans. Then there were Daniel and Vickie, followed by BeBe and CeCe who found success as a duet and as solo artists. Most recently R&B/gospel fans were treated to the younger Winan siblings, Angie & Debbie. But that's the end of it right? Isn't that all of the singing Winan kids, present and accounted for? Well, no.
Recording under the name Winans Phase 2, Marvin Winans Jr., Carvin Winans III, Juan Winans, and Michael Winans, Jr., are now introducing the third generation of Winans to the world. Their Myrrh records debut, We Got Next, reveals more than a solid musical heritage. Mixing a broad blend of urban, R&B, pop and gospel influences, Winans Phase 2 offer up a fresh mix of stylistic innovation, youthful energy and musical maturity that skillfully blends the best of old and new. Ranging in age from 16-19, the members of Winans Phase 2 are obviously in tune with the music of their peers, but they manipulate and incorporate those sounds within the context of their rich family musical tradition. After all, the Winans family has become almost a separate musical genre within themselves.
Winans Phase 2 formed in 1998 after singing on a series of television spots for Detroit's NBC affiliate. Overwhelmingly positive feedback from viewers prompted the four Winans to officially declare themselves an entity. It didn't take much shopping after that to land a record deal with Myrrh. "Our family has really been blessed to be able to sing," says Carvin III. "But growing up it wasn't something we pondered. It wasn't something our parents pushed us into. We didn't grow up assuming we'd eventually make a career of it."
I don't think I ever aspired to sing before we put this group together," adds Juan. "But at some point I really started to see how much people need to be reached with the message of the Gospel, and I said, 'We've been given this gift to be able to sing, so how can we not sing?'"
Recognizing the need for positive role models among their generation, Juan, Carvin, Michael and Marvin, hope to give back to others the strength they have drawn from the examples of their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. They want to be salt and light in their culture, offering a message of hope and redemption, and backing their words with their lives. "We know what it's like to be young and deal with all the things in life people our age face daily," says Marvin. "But we want to encourage our peers to be strong and to be real. We want to encourage them to live what they believe wherever they are. If you feel like you should pray over your lunch at school, pray. Don't be ashamed or embarrassed. Do what you know is right."
"We want to reach our peers without compromising the values instilled in us by our family," Michael adds.
Demonstrating a high level of belief in the mission of Winans Phase 2, Myrrh Records has surrounded them in the studio with urban pop music's songwriting and production elite. Producers Rodney Jerkins (Brandy, Whitney Houston), Narada Michael Walden (Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin), and Cedric Caldwell (BeBe & CeCe Winans, Donny McClurkin, Whitney Houston) all share production credits on the project. Producer Joshua Gen Reubin also handles the worshipful, yearning track "Just For a Day." Written for Winans Phase 2 by Babyface(Toni Braxton, Waiting to Exhale Soundtrack), "Just For a Day" offers a precise musical arrangement overlaid with silky harmonies. For added good measure, the group is also throwing in their own soulful version of the BeeGees classic, "Too Much Heaven."
Other standout tracks on the Winans Phase 2 debut include, "Always For You," an acoustic number punctuated by smooth vocals and "Come On Over," which opens with a prayer of thanksgiving and then invites the listener to commit to a more spiritual side of life. "I'm a Winans Too" gives each of the four youngsters an opportunity to boldly state their case in a rap setting. Unlike the typical hip-hop fare, though, they don't waste time touting their rhyming skills or glorifying a "gangsta" image. Instead they affirm their faith and applaud their heritage. Michael raps during the song " … Hell is crowded full of people that's 'bout it/ but I strive to be God's man and proud about it!"
Channeled into a new generation, the Winans legacy continues. If their Myrrh debut is any indication, Marvin Jr., Carvin III, Juan, and Michael Jr. will be continuing the family tradition of spiritual fervor and musical excellence for years to come.