Tasha Cobbs Leonard has been a standout force in the gospel music world since her arrival, with all three of her major-label records landing at No. 1 on Top Gospel Albums and her debut single, “Break Every Chain,” earning her a Grammy. But in the past year, she has been quietly expanding her reputation as a hip-hop collaborator, starting with a stirring feature on Common’s Black America Again. Her recent single “I’m Getting Ready” topped the Hot Gospel Songs chart with the help of an unexpected -- and somewhat polarizing -- feature by Nicki Minaj.
Cobbs Leonard spoke to Billboard about her long-tracking friendship with Minaj, dream collaborators and the wave of mainstream hip-hop artists synthesizing their spirituality into music.
How did “I’m Getting Ready” come together? Was collaborating with a rapper something you were always interested in, or did you want to work with Nicki in particular?
Nicki and I have a friendship that started a couple of years ago. I had done this show, and she saw it on television and reached out to me on Twitter just to say how she was very inspired by the song. Maybe about two years ago, she started commenting on my Instagram, so we communicated back and forth there, which started our friendship. One day on Instagram, she posted saying, "Tasha Cobbs, when you're done with this album, shoot me 16 bars." Of course, both of our fans started going crazy: "Are they really going to do this?" When I sent it over to her, she immediately responded, "This is the song I was hoping you would send." I guess it was just a song that spoke to her and where she is. It gave her space to tell her testimony, and that's what you hear on her 16 bars.
Did you expect Nicki’s verse would create this polarizing reaction?
I knew there would be a reaction. I knew that some would agree, and some would not agree, and I believe I'm perfectly fit for that. I always tell people, "There are more people that are for us than are against us." There will always be people who don't understand, and that happens. We're forever evolving, and sometimes people will fight change, but I know that this is something we both had to do, and it gave her an opportunity to share her heart and her story on a different platform. She's said that several times -- in a post the other day, saying, "This is the first time I've been on the gospel chart." She came from a Christian home, and I think this has given her an opportunity to share her testimony. It's been great just to read people's comments that say, "Hey, this song has really been blessing me this week," or "This is the only thing I've been listening to this week." Just to see those comments is huge for me. Everybody can relate to it. It speaks hope, and I believe our world just absolutely needs that. "I'm getting ready to see something I've never seen."