Editor’s note: ahead of the upcoming Chicago Gospel Music Festival on June 2nd and 3rd, Picture This Post interviewed some of the groups to get to know the singers and choirs performing (you can check out our first preview of the event 32nd Annual Chicago Gospel Music Festival). Meet God’s Posse, who will be performing at 7:30pm June 2nd at Millennium Park’s Pritzker Pavilion. This interview was conducted with lead singer Ray Burnett, and has been slightly condensed.
PTP: “What is God’s Posse, and when did you all decide to start working together?”
RB: “The group had started out in 1999, it was actually formed by our godfather. He basically just passed the torch to us to continue the legacy, so that he could live on with god giving him the vision to start the group, and, basically, God allowed us to just keep it going strong. He’s actually the visionary, the creator of the group.
“It’s actually nine of us that consist the whole group, but of the nine its five of us who are the vocal singers. Three background singers, I’m one of the lead singers, and my uncle is the other lead singer."
PTP: “Where were you born, where did you all grow up?”
RB: “I’m from a little town called Elgin Illinois, born and raised there. A lot of the guys are from Chicago, the group actually started, was based and created in Chicago.”
PTP: “How did music figure into your upbringing?”
RB: “Believe it or not I loved gospel music growing up. My father, may he rest in peace, which was my pastor, he had started the group, years ago. So I started playing drums for the group, and eventually went from playing drums to singing background and playing, to eventually lead singing and background, and then it kind of went from there. I eventually joined the group in 2006, and ever since then I just never looked back. God has been good to us.
“But my uncle, he is the only original member left in God’s Posse, he’s been there since day one. He plays the guitar with the group, the old group actually calls us the baby jubilee. So it’s been a great run, I’ve enjoyed myself, we’ve all enjoyed ourselves. We put God first and our ministry, but we also try to make it a family-oriented group, when we come together and treat each other like brothers. And the love is not just on stage its off stage as well.
PTP: “Why is gospel music important to you? Do you know why the group was originally formed?”
RB: “The purpose of this group, first and foremost, or the purpose of this ministry, is to give God praise, and to allow our ministry to where it compels men and women, boys and girls to Christ. That’s our purpose, to spread God’s word across the country and to uplift somebody, to save somebody. Because we’ve had experiences out on the road singing where there was someone who was thinking about committing suicide, and because of our ministry they decided to not give up, but to live, to choose God. That’s the real purpose of this. To spread God’s word, to uplift somebody and encourage them, but most importantly compel them to Christ.
PTP: “Has your group been a part of any gospel competitions, and any other milestones?”
RB: “God’s Posse has been nominated for multiple honors and awards. We’ve been nominated for the Chicago Gospel Music Awards, we won a Best Quartet Group award in 2015 on Easter Sunday in Chicago. That was a great honor. We were nominated by Praise Pastor, Quartet of the Year Award, we were nominated for Rhythm of Gospel. It’s a whole bunch of accolades that we’re honored to be nominated, to be thought of.”
PTP: “When you are not rehearsing or performing or doing other things related to your music how do you spend time? Any hobbies? Besides Gospel music, what are your main interests? I hear some children in the background.”
RB: “Exactly. When we’re not singing, or I’m not on the road, I spend some time with my wife and my kids. Also I started my own little business, so I try to stay busy with that, get my business going strong. When we’re not with our families sometimes we get together as a gathering and enjoy one another. Definitely the most important thing is that we all attend church. All our church homes are in Chicago. We have a couple church homes that are on the south side, and we have one that’s on the west side.”
PTP: “How have you seen the Gospel Music world changing in recent years? Are any of these changes influencing your musical style?”
RB: “Well as for gospel music it has changed a little bit, it’s now more contemporary. But as far as our genre, which is chant, it has changed a little bit, but as God’s Posse we still follow the platform of traditional gospel to where some our legends that are still singing today and that are still impacting the music of quartet for us today are still impacting our lives. Whether it’d be the jubilees, the Jackson Southerners, Mr. Harvey Watkins, Robert Blair the Violinaires, I can go on. There are many legends that still go on and do the traditional sound, and we still stay under that foundation. We may come out and try to do the little dance move type things, but we still stick to our roots.
“But I don’t think it changed dramatically as far as gospel music, I think the majority of gospel music still has a message in it, which is the important message that god saves. I think that hasn’t changed, which is good, because when we take god out of anything out of any equation then that’s when it can fall apart. So I think gospel music has grown in popularity over the years and I think there is a change that’s about to come, or is starting, but it’s going to get the popularity to where it should be.”
PTP: “Please tell me about each piece in your program.”
RB: “We’re going to be doing a song that’s called “Put your trust in Jesus.” There aren’t any real challenges with this song, or any other material that we have. It’s an opportunity to give god thanks, and praise. So any time that we have a mindset to give god praise in whatever we do, then that’s a great opportunity that we have to share god with a group of people.”
PTP: “Many of our readers know little about Gospel Music. What do you think is the most important thing for people to know about Gospel Music and this Festival?
RB: “I would say the important thing is to know what we’re singing about. And to receive the words that we say in songs, because to let it manifest, allow it to get into your life so that it can be a way to help you, where God can help you.”
PTP: “Any other comments?”
RB: “Please like their page on Facebook. Our music is available on all digital outlets, and we’re available on twitter, Instagram. We don’t call them fans, we call them supporters, we call them friends. So we love interacting with our friends, let us know what they think about our ministry, how our music helped or inspired them.”
All photos courtesy of Ray Burnett and God's Posse.
MORE: read other profiles of gospel performers, including Glenn Johnson and the Voices of Innerpeace, The University of Illinois Black Chorus, Isaiah Freeman, R&R, Neicy Robertson, and the Selah St. Sabina Youth Choir.