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With his soulful tenor vocals and an unerring ability to fuse contemporary gospel with hip-hop sensibilities, Smokie Norful is one of the brightest lights on the current gospel scene. The son of an African Methodist Episcopal minister, Norful spent his first 14 years in Muskogee, OK, where he absorbed music ranging from sacred gospel to the secular soul that was popular at the time, and both strains would serve him well when he began his professional singing career. By the age of two he was picking out melodies on piano, by four he was actively playing and singing in his father's church, and by ten he was a featured artist on a custom album assembled by a regional music director. Although music was his enduring passion, Norful instead opted to study history at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, eventually working as a history instructor for four years before relocating to Chicago in 1998 in order to earn a Masters of Divinity degree from Garrett Theological Seminary.
After his graduation, Norful remained in Chicago as an assistant pastor at the Rock of Ages Baptist Church and stayed active in various church choirs, eventually catching the ear of Joe Anne Brunson, leader of the Thompson Community Choir, who asked him to sing one of his original songs for the choir's Real album, which essentially launched Norful's professional singing career. His debut solo album, I Need You Now, was released by Chordant in 2002, followed by a live album called Limited Edition from EMI Gospel in 2003. Norful has characterized his music as "urban inspirational," an apt term that allows him to stretch the boundaries of traditional gospel while still remaining true to its purpose. EMI Gospel also released Norful's second solo album, Nothing Without You, in 2004. Life Changing appeared in 2006, and in 2009, EMI Gospel released Smokie Norful Live.
Rev. W.R. "Smokie" Norful, Jr. is an American gospel singer and pianist, best known for his 2002 album, I Need You Now and his 2004 release, Nothing Without You, which won a Grammy at the 47th Annual Grammy Awards for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel Album in 2004.http://www.grammy.com/GRAMMY_Awards/Winners/Results.aspx?title=&winner=&year=2005&genreID=0&hp=1 | Grammy Winners Search
Pastor Smokie Norful spent the early portion of his life in Muskogee and Tulsa, Oklahoma. He later moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where he attended Jack Robey Junior High and Pine Bluff High School. He is a graduate of the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff with a bachelor’s degree in history. He also received formal training in ministry at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., and Trinity International Seminary in Deerfield, Ill., where he studied to achieve a master’s of divinity. He served as a history teacher for seven years at Jack Robey Junior High School, Pine Bluff High School (Pine Bluff, Ark.) and Evanston Township High School (Evanston, Ill.) respectively. Additionally Rev. Norful served for two years as the educational director for the Pine Bluff Housing Authority’s after-school program. Other notable vocational experiences include, but are not limited to, his service as a historian for the National Park Service and a congressional aid for the fourth congressional district. He currently serves on the board of Regents for Trinity International University.
He was ordained an elder in the African Methodist Episcopal church and has been a licensed preacher since 1997. Rev. Norful served as youth pastor, minister of music, and associate minister of St. John AME church in Pine Bluff, under the leadership of Rev. W.R. Norful Sr., and Teresa Norful until relocating to Chicago. He also has served internationally as worship leader for the connectional youth department of the AME church. In addition, he has served as an educator and workshop conductor for the Christian Education department of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc., and has been a well-sought clinician and keynote speaker for many organizations, ministries, and civic groups. He was recently inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame, along with many other notable people.
Currently he serves as pastor of the Victory Cathedral Worship Center in Bolingbrook, Ill. On September 20, 2005, Pastor Smokie Norful officially launched Victory Cathedral Worship Center in Bolingbrook, Ill. Since its launch, Pastor Norful and the Victory family have experienced an extraordinary and unprecedented growth in the community. In addition, on September 28, 2008, Pastor Norful launched a second campus on the south side of Chicago. Since its launch, they have witnessed a similar dynamic growth and a phenomenal move of God.
He is an internationally renowned musician, music composer, and recording artist. His debut compact discs entitled I Need You Now and Smokie Norful Limited Edition have garnered favorable accolades and awards across the world, including the 2005 Grammy Award for Contemporary Soul Gospel Album of the Year for his release entitled, Nothing Without You; three Stellar awards; four Dove awards; three Gospel Music Excellence Awards; an NAACP Image Award nomination; a Soul Train award nomination; two nominations for the BET award for gospel music; two RIAA certified Gold selling compact discs; and countless others. Pastor Norful has contributed as a writer to five platinum selling compilations, and has written for numerous major label gospel recordings. Billboard magazine named him the number one selling gospel music artist for 2003 and 2004. His notable performances include such events as the Trumpet Awards, Save Africa’s Children Event in Soweto, the BET Awards, the Stellar Awards, Soul Train, hosting and performing on the Dove Awards, the Parade of Stars, the Essence Music Festival, the New Orleans Jazz Festival and numerous other notable festivals, events, concert halls, and tours. He has also had the honor of performing for President George W. Bush in the White House in celebration of Black Music Month.
Rev. Norful and his wife, Carla (former school teacher and social worker), own and operate four businesses in real estate, entertainment, and publishing. However, despite the demands as an artist, writer, entrepreneur, businessman, and pastor, what he cherishes most is cultivating a loving relationship with his wife, spending time nurturing their two sons, Tré and Ashton, and empowering his daughter, Ashley.