Vocalo Radio

Chicago's Urban Alternative

Current track



Semaje Uplifts The Legacy of Detroit Gospel

Written by on October 25, 2022

Soulful gospel artist Semaje pushes the genre forward by blending modernity and tradition.

Support, authenticity and consistency are the foundation of Semaje’s career. The Detroit-rooted singer has been influenced by the deep musical culture of the city — including, but not limited to, artists like Aretha Franklin, J. Moss and legendary gospel group the Clark Sisters. In addition to being influenced by Detroit music legends, Semaje is determined to support other artists in his community.

“I’m a huge supporter of many of the artists here in Detroit, I make it my mission to support them as much as possible,” Semaje said. 

Photo courtesy of Semaje.

Describing his sound as “soulful, funky, pop and full of heart mixed in one,” Semaje incorporates traditional gospel elements with a modern twist. His single “You,” featured on Vocalo’s September “In Rotation” playlist, bridges the gap between traditional and new gospel, incorporating in it the traditional hymn “This Joy That I Have.”

Semaje also discussed the meaning of his single “You” and how he strives to push the gospel community forward with authenticity and passion.

Photo courtesy of Semaje

At what point in your life did you know music was your calling?

I was around the age of 16 when I knew I had purpose behind my gift in singing, and it could be effective in this day and time.

How would you describe your style of singing to someone who isn’t familiar with your music? 

My style of singing is soulful, funky, pop and full of heart mixed in one. It’s like Michael Jackson meets the Pentecostal Church.

What’s the story behind your artist name?

My artist name actually is my legal first name, my mom named me.

Tell us a little bit about your song “YOU” which was featured on our “In Rotation” playlist for September. How did this song come about?

You was produced by BBEARDED and written by Jamel Smith. This song is basically letting the listener know that the smile I have, this joy and happiness, is all because of “you,” and that “you” is God.

How did you go about adding the hymn “This Joy That I Have” into the song? Why did you decide to add it in?

Actually, the writer Jamel came up with the idea, and I thought it was brilliant. [I] decided to keep it in there because we knew gospel music lovers would pick up on that classic hymn. 

Being from Detroit, known for Motown and its deep gospel roots, how have the sounds of the city influenced your artistry? 

Detroit has so much influence on me and my artistry, from the vocals and sounds of J. Moss, The Clark Sisters, James Moore, Aretha Franklin and so many more.   

How is your relationship with other Detroit gospel artists? How have they supported you during your musical journey?

I’m a huge supporter of many of the artists here in Detroit, I make it my mission to support them as much as possible. I must shout out Anesha Birchett, she’s an artist here from Detroit, who’s actually the executive producer of my debut EP. She’s the true definition of real support during a musical journey.

You recently were a guest on the Dorinda Show with the legendary Dorinda Clark-Cole. What knowledge did the gospel legend pass down to you as an up-and-coming artist? 

Aunty Dorinda is such an iconic lady. She’s supported me from day one. The biggest lesson she has shared with me is to be consistent and remain the same — [whether] the platform is big or [whether it] is small, be the same. The bible even speaks on that, it says “Remain faithful over a few things and God will make your rulers over many.”

Photo courtesy of Semaje

How do you strive to push the gospel community forward with your music? 

The way I strive to keep the gospel community [moving] forward is to keep being 100% authentic in my sound and who I am, and give out my interteraption of gospel music the way God gave it to me.

How does your faith keep you grounded while creating music? 

My faith keeps me grounded, because it keeps me reminded that I’m doing this to help others. I’m a servant, I’m meeting the needs of God’s people and always ensuring he gets the glory from what I do.

Is there a venue or festival you would like to perform in? 

Yes, I actually have three. Essence Festival Main Stage, Coachella and the Hollywood Bowl. I want to take faith music as far as God allows me.  

What’s up next for you? Any new releases in the works? 

I have a new single being released within the next couple of weeks called “I Rely.” This is a song that’s from the heart. I can’t wait to hear it. Hopefully I can come to Chicago and play it at the radio station for you guys. It’s an amazing record. I am also gearing up to release my debut EP in the first quarter of 2023.

Follow Semaje on Instagram and stream his music on Spotify below.

Interview and written introduction by Joshua X. Miller

Edited for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca

More from Vocalo: