RIP Gospel: Stephen Hurd, the Exaggerated Praise of Donald Lawrence and the Bleeding Hypocrisy that Cometh

Posted June 19, 2013 by J Matthew Cobb in Features

How Facebook “beef” with a well known worship leader became “puppy chow” in a matter of minutes


If you know very little about black gospel music, you might want to skip this article. But if you’re a teeny weenie bit curious about the environment that surrounds modern-day gospel singers, read on. I promise you, there’s a good bit to learn. 

This afternoon, Washington DC-based praise and worship leader and former Integrity Gospel recording artist Stephen Hurd published a Facebook Post-It that praised the musical chapters of Donald Lawrence. And it is duly noted that Lawrence – a hard-working musician with longevity and a sweet sensibility for sophisticated choral structures – deserves recognition. But Hurd made the mistake when he compared Lawrence to prominent figures within the Black Gospel tradition such as Walter Hawkins and Thomas Whitfield. He labeled Lawrence “a modern day Hawkins/Whitfield” and even compared him with the highly-celebrated cross-cultural Christian music titan Andrae Crouch. For Lawrence, he should be smiling from cheek to cheek for being compared with greats he also has looked up to and gleamed from. In my days in covering gospel music, I have always said that Lawrence’s work complimented those traditions. I will go as far to say that he has also tried to keep those legacies fresh and relevant before his generations’ ears, a group who has yet to see that kind of glowing prominence. Only big-name individuals like Kirk Franklin and Lawrence have tried to keep that musical style in place. But I thought Hurd’s comment – a bit too giddy to be considered factual – looked like a desperate PR move to give Lawrence some much needed shine, especially as those traditions are now fading away from public consciousness.

I replied:

“(vomits at the mere mention of D Lawrence being labeled a modern day Thomas Whitfield, Walter Hawkins)”

Faster than immediately, Hurd replied to my journalistic rhetoric. And no, I was not surprised by his reaction:

“J Matthew Cobb, vomit on your own. YOU clearly don’t know music and that JUST GOT YOU BLOCKED and dropped from this page…GET SAVED 2day.”

First, let me say this for the 45th time. And no, I’m not all that tired of repeating this, because not too many are interested in digging into my bio. I am a music journalist. I am a critic. I’ve been doing this for well over a decade. And when I committed myself full time to covering gospel music, he and his publicist, Bil Carpenter, have sent me many of his albums for review. When he was signed to Integrity Music, his label gladly forwarded albums to me for analysis. I have no personal anger towards him. Not then. Not now. I’m not shocked that he is angered by my opinion. When friendships are “under attack” and are on the line, outside criticisms – whether large or small – usually become personal. It’s clear that Hurd has invested time in the life of Donald Lawrence, so much so that he’s easily angered by my little gripes about his exaggerated praises. He boldly derails me by saying that “I don’t know music,” but he seems to forget that I knew music when it was time to get press for his albums. Only when the tune of the song isn’t fitting or conducive to what he “like” to hear – that’s where the reverse of opinion begins. By the way, I’m not offended or angered by the last part of the sentence, where he says, “GET SAVED 2day.” I’m saved knowing that Donald Lawrence is not a modern-day Walter Hawkins or Thomas Whitfield. To compare him to those giants is like saying Alicia Keys is the modern-day Aretha Franklin. Not hating: Both are great musicians, but Keys is light years away from reaching Aretha’s glory. The same can be applied to Lawrence when compared with Whitfield and Hawkins.

Immediately after the aforementioned musician deleted me, I notice I have a new contender on my list of friend requests. I rush to check them. I notice Hurd has since tried to “friend” me again. Once bitten, twice shy.

Here’s the proof:




















As I eavesdropped on the banter following Hurd’s response on his status, I couldn’t help but notice this snipe directed at me.




Stephen didn’t block it. He wants you to think he did. And that’s typical in the gospel industry. They are so busy trying to sell you their version of the truth.

Excerpt taken from “If Our Gospel Be Hid: The Hypocrisies, Stigmas and the Severe Dilapidation of the Black Gospel Music Genre” by J Matthew Cobb / publication date to be announced / copy written material, all rights reserved. 


What’d I Say is a public opinion series focusing on recent events featuring commentary from our team of skillful writers and guest bloggers. The opinions expressed at this forum are the opinions of the individual author and may not reflect the opinions of the parent company HiFi Magazine.

About the Author

J Matthew Cobb

Managing editor of HiFi Magazine


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