Tracy Randall is all over the music biz. The talented singer, fresh off the success of his debut Gospel album, “Sinners Have Souls Too,” can hyphenate his way through producer, composer and writer onto manager, agent and attorney.
With so many talents, Randall is an extraordinarily busy man. ChristianMusic.com finally caught up with him in Jackson, Mississippi, where he was finishing some tracks for his next Gospel album, GANGSTAHS FOR JESUS, at the studios of his partners, Corner Boyz Worldwide, before he had to catch a plane back to his home in New York City.
“I sang the hook on one of [Corner Boyz artist] Baby Stone’s songs, ‘Brighter Days.’” Randall explains how the partnership of his label, Lavish Records, and his business duties as chief operations officer, melds into a Gospel recording career. “It became a regional hit, and that convinced me to do an album.”
With titles like “Sinners” and “Gangstahs,” Randall is committed to taking the message to the streets. “I always loved singing and speaking in front of people,” Randall says. “That was my ministry, but I ran from it for a long time. I always thought I’d do love songs instead of talking about the love of Jesus.”
Randall grew up singing. “My mother would play Gladys Knight, Aretha Franklin, Mahalia Jackson, and I would mimic their voices. Especially Aretha Franklin,” Randall reveals.
The eighth of ten children, Randall says that music helped him survive as a child. “Music kept me in school,” he says. “When everyone else was out doing what they had no business doing, I was in the house listening to music.”
“I was in various singing groups. They would always kick me out,” Randall confesses. “I always had a really big voice and I didn’t blend in. ‘You sing too loud,’ the others would tell me. It wasn’t intentional. I just had a huge voice.”
Randall avoided the church choir so as not to suffer from the perception of his peers, he says, and when he left Lake Charles, Louisiana, for LeMoyne-Owen College in Memphis, having graduated at 16, he decided to pursue an engineering degree. But, he says, “math and the sciences bored me. They were too constraining. No flexibility or anything.” He switched his pursuit to business and graduated in three years.
He parlayed his musical and business abilities into a contract with T-Neck Records/Island Black Music as a performer, but he wasn’t happy with various mergers and shifting of labels. So, Randall went back to UCLA to get his PhD in International Business and Marketing and a law degree, all-in-one. He then returned to the business side of the music business.
“Handling rap artists,” Randall confesses, “many times I compromised my integrity for monetary gain. I didn’t realize it until later on in life. I am blessed and I took it all for granted. I did some unsavory things just for a dollar.”
“One day I went home and there was a ‘No Smoking’ sign on our door. My mom smoked her whole life. I remember, she started praying and reading her Bible, and the desire to smoke and drink left her,” says Randall. “That’s how I knew that God existed. Prayer does work if you just keep at it."
“When I got saved and God came into my heart, that’s when the guilt started, and I thought, I have to do better than this.”
However, the music industry wasn’t as accommodating as he would have liked. “When I chose to follow God, the devil became so busy. He tried to turn people against me who I’d known for years,” Randall says. “So many doors were closed to me. People who I’d done negative things with, they didn’t want to talk to me because I didn’t want to do that anymore. I couldn’t do it because I had made a promise to God. That’s sacred to me.”
Randall’s management company now handles an array of artists including hip-hop singers, songwriters and producers. He uses his business degrees to help some of the artists with their finances, setting up business plans for them. He also uses his law degree in negotiating contracts. But the greatest service he gives to many of the musicians is his example.
“Some of the other artists are becoming more Christian. No more clubbing and drinking and such. They see that I’m happier.” And, of course, that example comes through most clearly in his music.
“Mahalia [Jackson] would sing one phrase, like ‘Troubles of the World,’ and she’d take you there. You really believed what she was singing. You felt it,” Randall says. “I want people to feel that, to know that in spite of everything, God loves you. Unconditionally.”