If you grew up in church (particularly a “Black church”), you’ve undoubtedly heard some version of the following phrase: “What the devil meant for evil, God meant for my good.” YouTube star-turned R&B sensation Queen Naija has spent the past few years living her own version of this testimony. The obstacles came – rejected by American Idol, burdened by unemployment/poverty, dealing with the public dissolution of her marriage to Chris Sails – but they didn’t break her. In fact, they propelled her to a record deal and a global fanbase beyond anything she ever expected.
YouTube Music gives us a peek into her rise to fame in their latest episode of Artist Spotlight Stories, titled, A Way Out. Like previous installments, which featured artists such as Janelle Monáe and Shawn Mendes, the 16-minute documentary allows us to see a different side of Queen. Director Kanyessa McMahon shows the artist in her intimate spaces, introduces us to family and friends, and in a particularly poignant moment, highlights her faith in God. It’s this faith that sustained her throughout her darkest times and inspired her to write and release her first gospel song, “War Cry.”
The song, which is also featured in the short film, is a defiant anthem with a powerful message. As she works through her struggles, Naija’s resilient spirit can be felt when she sings “Devil you can’t have my mind / Devil you can’t have my soul / I belong to God and I’m fighting you off / With the power of the Holy Ghost.” But the song isn’t just about her, she takes aim at the hate and evil running rampant across the globe. With a sense of urgency, she declares, “This is the war cry that everyone needs to hear / I can feel it in the air that the end is near.” Booming percussion, dramatic piano and fiery electric guitar underscore a lively gospel choir, building to a powerful crescendo that will have you lifting holy hands.
Queen Naija is still firmly an R&B singer, and by no means should we consider her a saint just because she released a gospel song. But who among us is perfect? “I honestly was so nervous about putting this out, not because I’m ashamed of God, but because I know the judgement [sic] will come,” she admits. “I know I don’t fully represent a full blown Christian right now, I’ve been through a divorce, now pregnant with child unmarried, my single “Medicine” talks about getting revenge, and I never wanted to send a double message. But God is still working on me, he knows my weaknesses and struggles I need help with, and I just want y’all to still look beyond my faults and see and hear the message. We are in the last days. And God is showing us the signs, though we may not feel ready yet, I ask God to continue to work on us all.”
Listen to “War Cry,” currently available for purchase, then get to know Queen Naija by watching A Way Out. While the singer takes some time off to prepare for the birth of her second child next month, you can revisit her Queen Naija EP and check out her Royal Family vlog with her bae ClarenceNYC.