Long before he “stomped” to No. 1 with his genre-defying signature hit, there were years when it was questionable whether Kirk Franklin would even survive.

Abandoned by his parents when he was 4 years old, Kirk was raised in Fort Worth, Texas, by an elderly aunt. With finances being tight, the two collected cans and paper to be recycled and used the money to pay for piano lessons. Apparently, those music lessons were well worth it. At age 11, Kirk was appointed minister of music, leading the adult choir at his aunt’s church.

Although Kirk’s adolescent years were characterized by rebellion, he returned to the church with an intense sense of purpose. Blending R&B and hip-hop with the passion of choral gospel music, Kirk began developing his trademark sound. Thanks to a series of ensembles, he has been instrumental in ushering a new era of gospel music to widespread acceptance.

Drawn to his you-can’t-turn-him-down charisma and irresistible musical talents, he’s enlisted artists, including Crystal Lewis, Bono, Cheryl Jones of Salt N’ Pepa and Mary J. Blige to accompany him on his songs.

While Kirk’s used to drawing a strong response from audiences, we’ve now asked him to give us a few responses of his own.

20. Kid-ercise
If you’ve seen Kirk perform, you know that standing still is not his forté. Does he do anything else to stay fit? “No,” he responds, “I have four kids, and that’s all the exercise I need.”

19. Can I get a witness? Oh yeah.
Kirk has a simple explanation of how his mega-hit “Stomp” came into existence. “It was just an idea that God created, and I moved on it.” Did he ever.

18. Human bug zapper
There’s no question that Kirk knows how to write, arrange and perform a song; but what non-musical talents are up his sleeve? The buzz is that he’s good at catching mosquitoes with his hands.

17. Please hold
It’s been two years since platinum-selling "The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin" (Gospo Centric) was welcomed into the world. But don’t expect him to deliver a new bundle of joy soon. “I believe when the timing is right, God will speak something special,” notes Kirk.

16. First City
Breaking new ground is business as usual for Kirk and his cohorts. The music video for “Stomp” was the first gospel video to air on MTV, and "Kirk Franklin & The Family" (1993) was the first gospel debut recording to be certified platinum. His work on "Kingdom Come" marked the first time an established Christian artist has produced an entire soundtrack for a widely released movie.

15. Jazzin’ with Jay
In recent years, we’ve seen Kirk perform on “The Tonight Show” several times. What don’t we see? “Jay [Leno] always comes into your room and gives you a gift basket. And he has everyone sign his guestbook.” Now imagine its value on eBay!

14. Dishin’ with Donny
Select the category “Things Most Gospel Artists Have Not Done.” In giving clues, you may mention appearing as a celebrity contestant on the $100,000 Pyramid hosted by Donny Osmond. What was the hardest part of the show? “Making sure I don’t sound stupid,” he chuckles.

13. Funny folks
Kirk flashes a fast smile when amused but when he laughs, it bowls him over. Who can score a strike? “John Gray [who sang with The Family] and Harry Bullock [his best friend]. They remind me of Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall.”

12. Wonder-ful and Ever-Green
Although on the edge musically, you can easily hear echoes of the R&B masters in Kirk’s music. Among his inspirations: “Stevie Wonder and Al Green. I love the passion and conviction they sing with. It’s like they really believe what they sing.”