Onitsha is a rare and inspiring study in contrasts. Her debut album, Church Girl, proves
she is one of the brightest new stars in the firmament of contemporary inspirational music, and
yet the concept of "star-tripping" is not even in her vocabulary. She and her acclaimed producer
and co-writer, Shep Crawford (Whitney Houston, Kelly Price, Yolanda Adams), write song after
song, each somehow managing to obey all the rules of great, accessible, popular music, while
at the same time stretching—if not breaking altogether—every single one of them.
And at every turn throughout Church Girl, Onitsha succeeds mightily and majestically at
tearing down walls between musical genres, radio formats and—most significantly—the "usand-
them" mentality that has much too often, and for far too long, kept the Church and the world
in their own separate corners of Creation.
“My Life” is easy, sturdy R&B/funk, that finds Onitsha unleashing mind-bending
improvisations and riffs as if they were second nature, backed by a star-studded ensemble that
includes Erica and Tina of Mary, Mary, Deborah Cox and CoCo of ‘90s R&B icons, SWV.
“Don’t Give Up” struts a steady hip-hop groove that embodies the Onitsha sound, with
its solid, punchy bottom end, and just enough instrumental color to add the right flavor; all
making sure to leave lots of space for Onitsha and the ensemble to lay down vocals that are
nothing less than stunning.
“He Is” takes a cool, retro-soul vibe—slinky wah-wah guitar and all—and melds it to a
modern-to-the-minute rhythm section, yielding a best-of-both-worlds amalgam that is both
compellingly original, and like all of Onitsha’s work, relentlessly catchy, the way any great
popular song should be.
Onitsha proudly shows her church roots in “God Is On Your Side,” which deftly and
even ingeniously adds a touch of hip-hop rhythm and jazzy pop to the reverential Sunday
morning spirit that lies at the heart of it all.
“Search Me” treads on turf that even long-standing gospel divas might fear to go, as the
wonders of modern engineering yield a very modern-sounding mix of gospel matriarch Mahalia
Jackson’s original, classic recording, with Onitsha dueting with “The Queen.” Presuming to
traffic in such hallowed company is a bold, even risky move, and any serious gospel fan will tell
you straight up that you better have the goods to deliver, or get out of town, and quickly. Never
even presuming to out-sing the greatest of gospel greats, Onitsha simply, and with all due
respect, just sings her parts in her own, natural, captivating and unaffected way, turning out a
track that can’t help but make any listener smile from here to next year.
Producer and co-writer Crawford has no trouble putting his finger on exactly what it was
about Onitsha that made her stand out from the countless singers a hit producer hears, in the
search for exciting and original new talent.
“Onitsha is a truly unique voice,” he says. “I hear lots and lots of singers who can really
sing. They’ve got all the runs and all the riffs, but they just don’t have that extra `something.’
Think of all the classic singers, from James Cleveland, to Stevie Wonder…Gladys Knight.
When their voices come on the radio, you immediately know who it is. That’s the stuff legends are made of".