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Marvin Sapp on his new album, the Black church, and remaining spiritual after losing his wife to cancer

Marvin Sapp Still

Marvin Sapp understands the power of having a strong spiritual foundation. During his rise as a gospel singer and pastor, Sapp lost his wife, Dr. MaLinda Sapp, to cancer.

Through music and ministry, Sapp has been able to heal himself and provide a sense of guidance for others who have experienced difficulties.

With his latest album, You Shall Live, Sapp continues to inspire and take gospel music to new heights. He recently spoke with rolling out to discuss his new project and how he maintains his spiritual base.

Let’s start by discussing the title of the new album, You Shall Live. What was the overall meaning behind that title?

It’s a declaration in essence. That’s what the whole record is really about. It’s about declarations and affirmations. This is a declaration of no matter how challenging life may seem to be, no matter what your struggle may be at that point of time, that giving in and quitting or dying isn’t an option. Just get up and make that declaration. I’m going to live. I’m going to fulfill the purpose plan and the destiny for my life.

How important is it for you to continue to use your music to help others get through their journey?

I’m a very strong believer that anything that you do, that you have to have a conviction for. I think that’s what kind of makes it easy for me to be able to do the type of music that I do. It’s because it’s more than just me singing lyrics about an individual that I haven’t experienced and or don’t know. But it’s a conviction. Because of my conviction and because of that relationship that I had with them and the knowledge that I have with God, it kind of makes it easy for me to be transparent about my struggles, my triumphs, my trials. After 25 years of being in the business, I don’t know if I could say that it’s easy because it’s a challenge remaining current, but it’s fun trying to evolve every time it’s time to do a new record. Just so people can hear you and say, “yeah that’s that Marvin Sapp joint I love it.”

Your song “Never Would Have Made It” remains a gospel classic. How does it feel to know that the song resonates years after its release?

It’s amazing. The song just went gold. The record went gold about four or five years ago. The record is almost platinum. You never really think that your music is going to have that type of impact. You dream of it, but you never think that it’ll happen. Music can be like a season. You’re hot today, you’re not tomorrow. So I just personally enjoyed the ride and kind of tried to keep doing what I’m doing and remain current musically. That’s what it’s all about to me. At this point, it’s not reinventing the wheel, it’s just making sure that the wheel still works.

You experienced a tremendous loss with the untimely passing of your wife MaLinda. How did you remain spiritually grounded throughout that period?

One of the greatest blessings of being married to my wife, MaLinda Sapp, is that she was a licensed psychologist. She was a professor of psychology and professor of sociology and she was a limited licensed psychologist. Outside of my relationship with God, I found myself going to a natural doctor to help me process [my grief]. My children were also there. We went to a psychiatrist to go through some serious counseling in order to ensure that we would maintain our mental stability. That’s one of the things in the urban community that we fight. It’s sad when we have that crazy uncle or cousin and we just stick them in a room and lock the door. Everything isn’t a demon. Some stuff is just chemical. Because I grew up and was in a house with a woman who understood those things, who understood the spiritual side as well as the mental side, the first thing I did immediately was put me and my kids in an environment so that we could salvage our mental health. Talk to God, but make sure you find someone that’s professionally trained who can help you process your pain.

How have you adjusted to being a single father?

It was a challenge. I have two girls and a boy. My girls were younger, so they were 11 and 13 when my wife passed away. My son was 16 and he was pretty much at the age where he was raised. But now my girls are 18 and 16, one’s about to go to Alabama A&M and the other one’s a junior in high school. It taught me some very valuable lessons about understanding sensitivity. It taught me how to listen better. It also taught me that there is a maternal side to a man that many of us don’t want to tap into. We have to learn how to not only tap into the father side, but we also have to tap into that maternal side as well so that we can give them all aspects of what they need, especially since it’s only me.

Have you dated much in recent years?

Things have changed drastically. I’ve been out of the dating game for years. The last time I went out on a date, up until recently, was when I was married. Now a days things have drastically changed and the expectation is different. I’ve learned that with all the self-help relationship books out there today, time is not really being taken into consideration in building relationships anymore. If it ain’t where we need it to be in 90 days, we’re moving on. It didn’t used to be that way. It used to be that you took time to build a relationship. The advice that I would give any man or woman is that you can not be anything to anybody until you are everything to yourself. Meaning, you have to be completely whole in order for you to be anything to anybody. Have your stuff together. Make sure all your bills paid. Make sure your FICO score is straight. You don’t want to be with somebody and be a hindrance. You want to be with somebody and be a help. I don’t believe in falling in love, never have. I believe you grow to love somebody. I believe that you meet somebody and you’re enamored with them. I believe you look at them and you may lust them. But you can’t love somebody you don’t know until you grow to love them.

What are some good and bad things about the Black church community today?

One thing I love about the Black church is the people. One thing I wish I could change about the Black church is the people. That’s the answer. If people study their bibles, the same stuff that we’re dealing with now is no different than the stuff that they’ve dealt with in biblical times. All these folks say, ‘I can’t believe this is going on in the church.’ Where have y’all been? It’s the same junk that’s been going on since the days of Jesus. What we need to do is understand that there’s going to be wheat and tears, and they’re going to grow together and just let God do the separating. If we let God do the separating, we won’t be plucking up wheat accidentally thinking that they’re tears. I just preach in season and out and let God separate man. They’re his people. I’m just called the pastor who he sends. I’m not called to say you’re saved and you’re not.

What do you want the impact of your latest album to be?

Musically, it will be an extremely successful record. People will go out and get it and it’ll do what it’s supposed to do. It’ll sell the types of units because it’s a business. I’m not crazy, I’ve been here long enough to know that this is business. But you want to make music that has a life that lives beyond its specific date of release. That means that it’s message is still relevant. That’s what really makes “Never Would Have Made It” such a great song. Not because of it’s in depth lyrical content, it’s not a deep song, it’s just a song that resonates with so many people because so many people have had those moments. So I’m hoping that We Shall Live has a song on it that really resonates with people just as “Never Would Have Made It” did.