Road To The Grammy’s: TSU Freshman Says One Call Changed The Trajectory of Her life

By Alexis Clark

Freshman Me’Kayla Smith’s life changed instantly when she decided to attend Tennessee State University. Smith was initially forgoing college to focus on her budding singing career after experiencing the difficulties of juggling high school academics during the pandemic. However, a phone call from TSU alumnus Sir The Baptist, a two-time Grammy award-nominated songwriter and artist, changed everything.

Smith is a part of the Grammy-nominated, groundbreaking gospel album The Urban Hymnal by TSU’s Aristocrat of Bands. Fondly called AOB, they are the first collegiate band in the history of the Grammys to receive a nomination.

“It just shows you that life can change for anyone at any moment,” said Smith.  “A lot of opportunities that are afforded, we don’t know the magnitude of it. TSU was something I did not know I needed. And now I’m singing on a Grammy-nominated album.”

Smith’s captivating voice can be heard on the chorus of the song titled ‘Alright,’ on the10-track album featuring trailblazers within the gospel music industry.

Smith has been singing in church choirs since she was a child. When she turned 7 years old, she realized singing was more than just a hobby.

“Singing is the way that I breathe,” added Smith. “One of the reasons I was created is to sing. I sing because it’s a part of what makes me who I am.  It’s a form of how I connect with the Lord.”

Smith’s road to the Grammys began summer 2022, when Sir The Baptist reached out to her on social media and followed up with a call about attending TSU and being a part of the album. The soprano says she was honored, and the decision was a no-brainer.

“My stepfather has a studio downstairs. I recorded it right then and there at home … and the rest was history,” she says.

Despite her reservations about attending college, she knew furthering her education and career as an artist at the university was a great decision. Smith, who is a business major, had an active first semester as she is a Sophisticated Lady, a member of the New Direction Choir and AOB.

The song ‘Alright’ supports everything Smith believes in, she says, as the record gives her a sense of hope. “It’s an encouraging piece for anyone who needs some uplifting … it is innovative, full of creativity, and it feels like home.”

Smith says she wasn’t surprised when the Grammy nomination was announced as she knew the quality of the album and its originality was bound to go far.

The Urban Hymnal is one of five nominated in the Best Roots Gospel Album category. Smith looks forward to the band bringing the trophy back to Tennessee and being recognized as the first collegiate band in history to earn a Grammy. The Grammys will take place on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023, at Arena in Los Angeles, California.

Listen to The Urban Hymnal album on music streaming