Minister addresses controversy around latest R&B release ‘Emoji’

Pensiri: A Talk with Ro Wright



Switching genres in any creative space isn’t an easy task. Artists, writers, and musicians who do so seamlessly can often be met with resistance. There is always the expectations of fans to create better books, music, or art but often within the scope of the performers’ known area. Recently, Kanye West was met with criticism following his Sunday Service  performance at Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church. Critics said West’s project is blasphemous.

“We really have to unlearn what we have been trained to believe is ministry,” said New Orleans minister Ro Wright III who recently released an R&B single, “Emoji.” The song is mainstream, pop, and high-energy—not quite what people have come to expect for ministry music.

“Emoji is a fun song with a nice Afro-beat groove but if you listen to the words carefully, you’ll see it’s really just a song about communication. I believe the root of a great relationship is the ability of two people to let nothing hinder them from being able to talk to each other. More importantly, tell each other how they feel. Check up on each other and lift each other’s spirit,” Wright said.

The song was released mid-August on more than a dozen platforms including iTunes, Apple Music, Google Play Music, Tidal, Spotify, Amazon, and Deezer. It is the first single for Wright’s upcoming full project release, “How To Love”.

The music was produced by Skirmisher Beat Squad.  Wright wrote and arranged the song while producer Brandon Barre mastered and engineered it. In this Pensiri: A Talk with Ro Wright III clarifies the message of his latest–and 11th–project.

‘Emoji’ doesn’t fit the praise and worship, Gospel music genre but sits smack in the R&B, love song mix. As a minister, why would you create an R&B love song and album without the mentioning of God or salvation?

WRIGHT: We’ve been taught that ministry is Worship music only. Worship Music is a resource for ministry, and a very vital ingredient, but it is not the only tool God can use. If ministry is truly about healing and building all of God’s people then that includes those who may not be members of a particular church and may not gravitate to the Worship arena. My God is not in a box and if God is really going to reach this generation then Chance the Rapper is just as important as Tye Tribbett. Kanye West is just as anointed as Kirk Franklin. If my marriage is going through a rough spot and I need to relight the fire in my relationship, why exclude God from that? R&B has the power to make people love and care about each other. Isn’t that what God asked us to do? R&B music can be just as anointed as Gospel when it is created with purpose.

 How can you say this single, “Emoji,” and the “How to Love” project is God-led? What’s the message or messages you’re delivering?

WRIGHT: Well it’s definitely God-led because I’m not a Trey Songz or a Tank or even a Chris Brown. I do alright, but I’m honest artist. (lol) These songs are definitely from the soul and written with a purpose. We love to point our the crime and poverty in our community but I personally believe these are residual issues from a greater problem: the dismantling of the family.

Divorce is at an all time high. Single parent homes have never been as high as they are now. People fall in love in one minute and in less than a month they are already done with each other. It says to me there is a deeper issue in our community that we seem to avoid and ignore. We don’t know how to love. We have workshops and retreats and forums but many times they are so “churchy” that the people who really need the advice don’t even participate. If the church is serious about saving marriages and building young adults then we have to seriously look at measures which go beyond the parameters of the traditional version of ministry. I want every child to grow up in a great family structure. I want every woman to leave her house confident that her man is being faithful. I want every man to be excited about being a husband, a father, or just a good dude who cares about his lady. Most people have good intentions. We simply lose focus.

Can you be more specific?

WRIGHT: People ask my wife and I all the time, “How do I get what you guys have?” We have done more than 100 counseling sessions and nine times out of ten, people are dealing with the same basic issues. I want this project to answer questions. I want this project to make couples give it another shot. I want this project to give hope to people who feel they are successful yet still single. We all have a lot to learn about love. Even us. But we hope our journey can help our peers understand how to make it work in a way that has truly helped us.

It’s not easy to do what you are doing. Not everyone has the wherewithal to push through resistance and expectations of what spiritual or religious leaders should do. How have you addressed those people who challenge your message in this project?

WRIGHT: I learned a long time ago… I will never fit into religious boxes. I don’t think what I am doing will surprise any of the clergy because I have always been an outsider anyway. I am strategic and purposeful in everything I do and most times they don’t understand it until they see the results that I have ALWAYS produced. I love the culture. I can’t help it and I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not just to make people like me knowing they will never fully accept me anyway. I’m cut from a different cloth and I do not play with my purpose. I think churches should invite my wife and I to speak. The way we are structured makes sense. We are cultivated in the Word yet we are not so religious that we can’t connect with our peers. We love being who we are… young, free, eclectic, and saved.

How welcoming do you expect churches or congregations to receive these messages around love? Is a church tour a possibility?

WRIGHT: I’m an optimistic person. I think people who are truly Kingdom-minded will understand that this is an emergency. Our churches and families are failing because we neglect to talk about the things that are urgent in their lives. Sexual frustration is tearing up Christian relationships. Lack of communication is destroying families. Misunderstanding of our roles in a relationship kills it before it really gets started. Most importantly, being over religious ain’t never kept a fire burning. Many of us are imprisoned and so indoctrinated by improper religious teachings that we think we’ll go to hell if we make love with our own spouses. We don’t have those problems in my house! We truly believe you can love God as a priority and love each other with exclusivity and it is supposed to be exciting. We can’t say God created everything but exclude Him from intimacy. That is important to God, too, and the more we avoid it the more issues we will have with broken families and heart-broken adults who really want to share their life with someone.

You’ve been a independent artist in every sense of the word—self-publishing five books, broadcasting online newsmagazine with radio programming, and made-for-TV YouTube shows. In college at Southern University, you created cassette recording of your spoken word, comical sermonizing, and poetry with Gospel music looped behind it. Your style has been highly charged for 20 years, how is this an extension of what you’ve done creatively and as pastor in New Orleans?

WRIGHT: I don’t look at any project as an individual entity. Everything is just another chapter in a collective body of work. This is just where I am right now. I’ve wanted to do this for a very long time. Much of my success is centered my work with building relationships. I’ve produced a movie about it (“Get The Ring Keep The Ring”) and I’ve also written books about it. Through social media, I connect with thousands of people daily, and we are all growing together. This is just an extension of all of that… a continued effort to keep spreading positive vibes and light.

How important has it been for you to do so many facets of creating and not just focus on one thing?

WRIGHT: I’ve always been told I had to be a certain way to thrive within a genre and I have let that strip me of who I am. If you are a minister you’re supposed to dress like this. You can’t say this. You can’t listen to this. You can’t be seen over there with them. It’s a bunch of rules that God never orchestrated. I’m free in my mind and in my spirit and I’m going to do what I’m supposed to do. Everybody won’t be used the same way. We are all built and cultivated for the assignment on our lives. If you know me or have ever met me then you know I am built for this. I don’t have to be a preacher to preach.

What’s next?

WRIGHT: A “How To Love” Couples Night is planned in several cities in October including Shreveport and Monroe. Greater New Orleans Metro will kick it off on Oct 13 at The Wine Garden in Slidell, La. 6pm. 

ONLINE: Emoji Video:
Emoji Youtube Video Link:
Social Media Handle: @rowrightofficial

By Candace J. Semien
Jozef Syndicate reporter


This feature, ‘Pensiri: A Talk with..,’ is a fascinating spotlight using narrative interviews and quick peeks into the interesting and unique lives of “average” human beings. From their spontaneous adventures, triumphs after tragedies, comical failures, and even the oddities of their personality, everybody has a story and every life has meaning. Enjoy the stories they share with Jozef Syndicate writers. @JozefSyndicate

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