"We are singing about a love that won't hurt you, a lover that will never leave you, the best love anyone could have. Believe me, we are into wigs, make-up, choreographed shows, the works. But most importantly, we are ministering to people's souls."
--Trin-i-tee 5:7's Terri Brown


by Mike Parker for the Music Channel at crosswalk.com

A late '70's Dick Clark docu-drama about the pre-stardom days of The Beatles ended with John Lennon shouting a question to the rest of the band.

"Where are we going, lads?"

"To the top!" the band replied.

"Where?"

"TO THE VERY TOP!" they shouted with foreshadowing fervor.

It is an answer that could easily be given by B-Rite Music's latest singing sensation, {{Trin-i-tee 5:7}}.

It is 2:00 in the afternoon and the group's publicist asks if I mind waiting while the girls grab a quick bite. They have been doing interviews since the wee hours, and the broiled chicken which room service has provided is rapidly growing cold. I make small talk with the publicist, studying the pristine elegance of the suite in Nashville's trendy Renaissance Hotel, while waiting for the singers to return.

I recalled my first interview with Trin-i-tee 5:7 almost a year earlier, before their videos became standard fair on BET and VH1; before their chart topping album sales; before they even had an advance single for the media to hear; before the hype became reality. The mood of that moment had been one of unbridled enthusiasm. They were about to burst upon an unsuspecting world, and they were jazzed about it. I am not sure that even they were prepared for the whirlwind of success that has swirled around them since the album's release. But rather than be blown off course by the wind, the Trin-i-tee girls have embraced the challenge, riding the whirlwind into the stratosphere like a hip, female Pecos Bill.

"The sky is the limit," Chanelle Haynes informs me as she makes her way back from what was indeed a 'quick bite.' The smoky-throated tenor struggles with an uncooperative false eyelash as she settles comfortably onto the couch opposite me. She has had this conversation before, and rather than being bored, she is merely comfortable with the answer to the question, "What's next?"

"On this tour, {{Ce Ce Winans}} is the diva, then there is {{Kirk Franklin}}, and then there is us," adds Angel Taylor, Chanelle's high-school chum and former vocal contest rival. "We are looking forward to the time when we are the headliners, and not just the 'Special Guests.'"

"And we would like to produce and write for other artists. And to pursue opportunities in acting and modeling." Terri Brown, the third member of the Trin-i-tee joins in the conversation with less emotion than her two younger companions, but with just as much conviction. Dressed in demure, white satin, Terri is the picture of cool confidence. The last member to join the group, she is also a stabilizing force that helps keep the group's collective feet on the ground, while they reach for the stars.

"She keeps us in line," Angel laughs. "She likes to tell us what to do, but she is also very protective of us."

Terri's aspirations seem destined for fulfillment. Revlon wants them as spokespersons for a new line of cosmetics, and they recently became the first Gospel group to perform for the New York Spring Fashion Show.

While image may not be everything, Angel is quick to point out that it is an important part of what Trin-i-tee 5:7 is all about. "We love to dress up!" she laughs. "We love very unusual clothes."

"We may wear wigs, or different styles of make-up," Terri adds. "We want young people to know that you can be stylish, hip, AND saved. We want to prove that you can look like 'all that' and still be sold out for Christ."

I wonder aloud where they shop for this eclectic, spiritual brand of haute couture. In trademark harmony, they reply, "The Gap," and then burst out laughing.

"We have this really unique and totally cool place to shop in New Orleans," Chanelle explains between giggles. "But if we told you where it was, then everybody would shop there and that would ruin the mystique!"

The conversation takes a serious turn as these articulate young women begin to discuss among themselves the road to fame and fortune. They deplore the current industry standard that seems to sell nothing but sex, but they love to revel in the success of friend and mentor, Lauryn Hill.

"So many young, black women are singing about this empty love and that 'hurt me' love, because that is all they have to offer," Terri says. "But we are singing about a love that won't hurt you, a lover that will never leave you, the best love anyone could have. Believe me, we are into wigs, make-up, choreographed shows, the works. But most importantly, we are ministering to people's souls."

"As far as our music is concerned, yes, there is a beat to it, and it is contemporary. But our number one goal is to let the youth know that God is for real," Chanelle interjects. "It's not just 'dance to the music!' We really want people to concentrate on the words, because it is our job to minister to people."

"We want to be successful, and we think it is possible to be successful singing Gospel music," Terri adds. "When people ask us if we are going to change to secular music, I view that as an insult. The world views success as money and power. But we think we are already successful because we are actually reaching people to live for God."

A cursory glance Trin-i-tee 5:7's self-titled debut confirms the girls desire to be "fly" and spiritually fit at the same time. The cover art could grace the cover of Vogue magazine, while the song list on the back reads like a hymnbook. "God's Grace", "Holy and Righteous", and "God's Blessing" allude to the no-holds-barred Gospel that lies encased within.

And if there is still any lingering doubt about the girls' intent, a quick listen to the CD will put your mind at rest. From the first sweet, a cappella strains of "I won't turn Back", to the concluding impromptu remarks explaining the origins of the group's name (a reference to I John 5:7), Trin-i-tee 5:7 preaches the Gospel with style.

"When we were growing up, we didn't see a lot of young, pretty, hip Gospel singers," Angel says. "We want young people to know that it is all right to look good, and dance, and sing -- as long as you are honoring the Lord."

All the accolades, media attention, and industry success is indeed, heady stuff for young women barely out of their teens. And while they are enjoying the fruits of their labor, they readily acknowledge that being young, beautiful, and talented is not enough to make it to the top. They are quick to credit the steadying influence of their manager, New Orleans entrepreneur Kenneth Grant. In fact, their primary advice to anyone seeking to follow in their footsteps is to have quality, godly management.

"Our personal experience is that God brought us to our management team," Chanelle insists. But her advice doesn't stop there. "Please surround yourself with positive people," she implores. "Not everyone who sings Gospel music knows the Lord. It is important to hook up with people who love God, because then they will love you, too."

"Learn to be patient," Angel adds. "And practice. Never stop and think you have arrived. Stay focused. Stay determined."

"And put ministry first," Terri concludes.

As the interview comes to an end, and I am ushered out with warm blessings and still warmer smiles, I conclude that {{Trin-i-tee 5:7}} may indeed, be on its way to the top.

Where?

To the very top!