The Walls Group Release Highly Anticipated Album ‘The Other Side’
With God on their side, two parents that reared them up right (spiritually and musically), youth in their back pocket and a family bond that cannot be broken, Houston’s The Walls Group launch their lightning rod third album, The Other Side, as electrifying singers and songwriters destined to ascend to among the most influential young artists in Contemporary Christian music. Riding the rocket of the album’s first single, “My Life,” plus two Stellar Award wins and a GRAMMY nomination behind them, Walls Group siblings Darrel, Ahjah (pronounced “ah-zjuh”), Rhea (pronounced “ray-uh”) and Alic (nicknamed “Paco”) are circling in a rare orbit that is motivating a passionate response and nurturing a new generation of young warriors to the footprints of Jesus Christ.
The Other Side is the follow-up to their chart-topping sophomore album, Fast Forward (produced by Kirk Franklin who signed them to his Fo Yo Soul Recordings label via RCA Inspiration). Now on the heels of a Christmas EP they gave away for free, The Walls Group personally invited super producers Warryn “Baby Dubb” Campbell and Eric Dawkins to take the reins of their emancipating third project – much of which the group has already previewed live to rave response on their “The Latitude Tour.”
“The Other Side reveals us coming from a more authentic and genuine place,” eldest member Darrel shares, “who we were raised to be and who we have become. We love all genres of music – musicals, country, rock, hip hop, R&B. Though we are a Gospel group, we are all-around artists. Our last album, Fast Forward, reflected more of what Kirk saw in us and was able to pull out – more urban hip hop – which was amazing. The Other Side comes from our perspective – how we’ve grown, how we think, what God has shown us and what God put inside of us…our calling. It’s not only Gospel, it’s good music period.”
“We were friends with Warryn Campbell before we even started on this album,” Darrel recounts, after meeting him at the Stellars in 2013. “When asked who we wanted to work with on the new album, we already knew. We called on Warryn and he said, ‘I’ve been waiting on this moment!”
Warryn’s contemporary touch stokes a fire under the group from the very first song: the lead single “My Life,” a track brought in by Damon Thomas of the songwriting/production group The Underdogs, centering around a catch phrase the group is always saying: “He made me great so let me be great!” Thematically, “My Life” is about the journey of serving God in relevant new ways outside church walls. Youngest member Ahjah explains, “As young artists in this industry, we don’t look like traditional Christians and we don’t do what traditional Christians do. We dance. We get hype. We’re excited about what we do and love what we do. Some people perceive that as something that it’s not. Sometimes we feel like David in the Bible because he didn’t use the traditional armor when he went up against Goliath. We can relate. We don’t look like what people think we should look like but that doesn’t mean we’re not qualified. You can’t count us out!”
The inclusion of Hip Hop is another secret weapon that makes The Walls Group such a youthful force. Paco brings that heat with his contribution to both “The Prayer” (a techno two-fold offering of “The Lord’s Prayer” with a personal testimony on the coda) and “Mercy.” “Rap gives me a special additional voice…another way to say what I need to say,” states Paco, who counts his influences as Kendrick Lamar, Chance the Rapper and Mos Def. “Warryn came up with the beat and the title ‘Mercy’ just for me and said, ‘Go crazy!’ I went into his music room where he keeps all the instruments for a couple hours. Basically, I’m throwing myself under the bus saying, ‘God, even though I’ve been in this situation – done this thing and that – you showed me mercy. I don’t deserve it but you still give it to me…daily.’”
Paco is also the one who brought the backbeat bedrock Gospel piece “Word” to the table. “I started it three years before – had a short draft on Soundcloud. One day we were coming from Disneyland going through songs we already had to add to the new album. I had written the hook and the first verse. Darrel wrote the second verse. When asked who I’d like to guest on it, I immediately thought Tim Rogers. He’s the coldest guy ever! People don’t expect young folks to like Quartet Music.” The Walls Group additionally flexes its affinity for that old school Gospel strain with the fun singalong “Good,” spontaneously created in the studio with the band in a groove reminiscent of D’Angelo. It’s so funky, West Coast Rap legend, Snoop Dogg, is including a version on his upcoming Gospel project.
Sisters Ahjah and Rhea co-wrote the heavenly “And You Don’t Stop,” vibing off of a phrase that Darrel started that said, “when my way gets a little cloudy.” “With all the places our journey has taken us, we’ve dealt with feeling lonely,” Ahjah shares. “We’ve all sacrificed a lot. I don’t have a lot of friends to call on but God is ever-consistent for me.” That feeling is also beautifully captured in the dreamy interlude “I’m in Love.”
All four siblings are featured on the tastefully orchestrated ballad “My Worship,” a song Darrel started around a haunting piano refrain about a situation all men and women face. “You dig yourself into a big hole and the only one that can get you out is God. You have to make room for Him to come in, clean up and just live there with you. We added the ‘Alpha and Omega’ hook that Israel & New Breed recorded on Alive in South Africa, played it for Israel Houghton and he loved it – told us, ‘Do whatever you want.’ Everyone that hears it cries.”
The Walls Group story overall is one of destiny, relevancy and purpose. Darrel, Rhea, Paco and Ahjah are the oldest four of eight children born to music ministers Roger Walls (organist) and Alicia Walls (singer/pianist). Undeniably a musical family, they initially never planned on starting a group. “We sang around the house, going to church in the car – everywhere,” Darrel shares. “One day, Mom asked us to make a video she could post on Facebook just to show a friend. Someone put the clip up on YouTube titled ‘World’s Most Amazing Kids.’ It went viral! We were only 13 to 19 years-old! We started making more home videos – covers of songs we liked by Kim Burrell, Kiki Sheard, Soul Seekers, Dorinda Clark-Cole, etc. Then Levi “Too” King (Producer for Men of Standard) called and said he would produce our first album in St. Louis. That album (The Walls Group) was done in 2010 but not released until 2012. It’s still selling.”
Kirk Franklin caught wind of The Walls when his backup singers informed him about this young group that had done a great cover of his song “The Appeal.” Signing with him, Paco enthuses, “We got connected and it’s been cool. He showed us that hard work pays off.” Their dedication to Fast Forward and increased attention they found though, also came with other sacrifices as they continued to work and share their mission. Ahjah recalls, “We were all still in school. We went through a lot of ridicule and criticism from our peers; older people didn’t feel we had paid enough dues. It was hurtful. Even some friends and family started to feel we should put them on a platform and we didn’t have our own on solid ground yet.”
The strength and maturity of The Walls Group is gloriously evident on The Other Side. Though they have a blast bringing New Jack Swing and the days of “House Party” back on “Don’t Cha Know,” it’s “On The Other Side” (inspired by sobering reality checks in the headlines such as Black Lives Matter) and “Count on You” that reflect their expansion into Country and Rock. “We got together in Darrel’s studio to write a song about who God is to us,” Ahjah says of “Count on You.” “We added fiddles and washboard to give that good old school country feel.”
Finally, “The Rock” is The Walls Group’s anthem – a Rock epic inspired by Romans 8 and “The Zachariah Generation.” Darrel witnesses, “I was begging God to please not make me aware of so many things I was trying to ignore. He said, ‘Why don’t you trust me?’ We were on tour in Switzerland 2016 and there was no TV…nothing to do but be still. Over those three days, the song was created.” Darrel did the demo himself, singing and playing piano, organ and drums. “It’s powerful,” Rhea adds. “It always gets me through when I’m having a hard day.”
The Walls Group remain fired up to carry their musical missives around the globe. Performing constantly, from Georgia and Texas to London, they were shocked when many in London already knew the words to their songs. On the other hand, they were saddened to find their hometown of Houston ravaged by Hurricane Harvey. Unable to get home right away during the storm, they did a benefit concert in Atlanta at All Nations Church with a GoFundMe campaign to raise money. This is who they are as children of God.
“I look forward to young people understanding that it’s o.k. to know God publicly, not just Sundays,” Rhea says in summation of The Walls Group’s mission and their latest masterpiece The Other Side. “To have Him in their lives and put Him first.”