Gospel Throwback: Commissioned, “Victory”

Gospel Throwback: Commissioned, “Victory”

Here at UrbanFaith, we believe that the recent past is a neglected element of black history. Jelani Greenidge, worship musician and music connoisseur, is taking a look back at some of the most momentous gospel music recordings of our era. In celebrating Black History Month, we present this series, the Gospel Throwback. 

Commissioned, “Victory”

Go Tell Somebody, Light Records, (1986)

I can’t talk about back-in-the-day gospel music without talking about Commissioned. For my parents’ generation, their watershed gospel songs, the ones that strike them with nostalgia, are the Walter Hawkins or Andrae Crouch recordings from the late 60s and 70s. But for me, a (formerly) young member of Generation X… it’s Commissioned, all the way. And man, does this one take me back.

It is tremendously fitting that this song opens with a Fred Hammond bass lick, because Fred was one of the main creative forces of the group, alongside keyboardist and arranger Michael Brooks. And though the album from which this sprang was not their first, it was the one that really put them on the map.

One of the funny things about growing up black in Portland, Oregon is that even though there was a tightly-knit black community in my area, we were a lot smaller in number compared to other cities.  And certain trends, dance moves, fashion, etc. took longer to show up here.

Consequently, there were a lot of cultural gaps in the overall awareness of my peers, especially my white peers. There were things they just didn’t understand that I thought would be obvious to everyone.  (I mean, didn’t everyone grow up in my family? Oh wait…)

Nowhere was this more apparent than with my enthusiasm for the music of Commissioned. In the late 80s and early 90s, when a new era of male R&B groups was dawning, led first by New Edition and then later Boyz II Men, I kept hearing over and over, not only in their music but also in interviews and liner notes, that virtually all of them had been inspired, on some level, by Commissioned.  (It was either them or Take 6.)

So why were Boyz II Men mega-famous, and not Commissioned, my pubescent mind wondered. And the answer came to me, many years later, as I pondered the meaning to the song that had been my jam for so long.

See, in the chorus, when the guys sing, “Victory, victory shall be mine”… that’s God talking. It’s not a celebratory, name-it-and-claim-it type thing. It’s actually a challenge to remain calm and not take matters into our own hands.

Hold your peace, vengeance is mine / enemies will bow down in due time / hold your peace, I will fight your battles / victory, victory shall be mine

These words are all Scriptural paraphrases, taken from passages like 2 Chronicles 20:15, Romans 12:19, and Deuteronomy 32:35 – which is probably why this song has endured for so long.

So relax, crank up the speakers, and take the time to look for God’s activity in your life while you bump this Gospel Throwback.

BET’s Tribute Was Messy, But Sincere

The water-cooler reviews are in, and BET’s 2009 awards show has got people talking. Unfortunately, much of the talk is not favorable. Indeed, Sunday night’s show was kind of a mess. But I think we should give BET a little grace. When Michael Jackson died last Thursday, BET completely overhauled the show to weave the King of Pop throughout and accommodate the mass number of celebs wanting to offer tributes. The show was quite literally thrown together. And so, yes, in many instances it looked like it.

To take a show that normally takes six months to plan and totally revamp it in a couple of days was an unenviable but admirable undertaking. Certainly there’s plenty to bash BET about — the network’s shoddy and sometimes downright trashy programming is now legendary.

But perhaps, in this case, we should give BET credit for attempting to pull off the impossible in order to honor one of the Black community’s — and the world’s — greatest entertainers. Some additional thoughts about BET’s show:

  • Ne-Yo did a phenomenal performance of “The Lady in my Life.”
  • Jay-Z rocked it with his new single “DOA.”
  • Joe Jackson sat up front all show long with Al Sharpton — which was weird, to say the least. Don’t we all dislike Joe Jackson because of all he put Michael through as a child? I’m confused …
  • All of the other celebs who came out of the woodworks for MJ tributes, like New Edition, were totally subpar.
  • The O’Jays tribute with Tevin Campbell was painful to watch…just a bad performance.
  • Jamie Foxx was a great host but went a little heavy on promoting his own upcoming tour.
  • The vignettes spliced between performances and awards offering tributes to MJ were awkward. The celebs shared MJ memories off the cuff, and since they were likely unscripted, the stories were rambling and sentimental, but not well-communicated.
  • Janet Jackson showed up on behalf of the Jackson family to say “to you, Michael was an icon, but to us, he was family.” It was the most touching moment of the night but lasted about 5 seconds after the show was already running behind 40 minutes.

The whole night was a little low-budget and unrehearsed. But in a way, it was like one big ghetto funeral. People were just there to show their love, raw and uncut. I kind of liked it.