“Gospel tells you about what God can do. It tells you the good news of Jesus. Because our music is so hip-hop and has an urban feel, a lot of people think, 'Oh it's inspirational, it's contemporary.' It can be but listen to what we're saying in our songs, which tell the message of Christ specifically.” Erica Campbell
American gospel music singer-songwriter duo Mary Mary, which is comprised of sisters Erica Atkins-Campbell and Tina Atkins-Campbell, has received great success combining gospel themes with soul and hip-hop sounds. Hailing from a musical family in Inglewood, California, the two gained a reputation as one of the leading artists in contemporary Christian music and enjoyed crossover success thanks to the platinum album “Thankful” (2000). The album brought them their Grammy Award, two Dove Awards and two Lady of Soul Awards and spawned the hit single “Shackles (Praise You).”
“Our aim is to make music that the entire world, every age and nationality can relate to. We want people to be encouraged and uplifted when they listen to our music.”
The duo released the sophomore effort “Incredible” (2002), which went gold and produced the No. 1 Gospel song “In The Morning,” before taking a hiatus to focus on their family. Their self-titled comeback album (2005) brought Mary Mary victory by becoming their first record to enter the Top 10 on Billboard. It also produced the Gospel hit “Heaven,” which created history for charting at No. 1 on the Billboard Gospel Radio for nine consecutive weeks.
Mary Mary released the album “The Sound” in October 2008.
Mary Mary is also noted for their songwriting talents. Their songs have been heard in the movies “Dr. Dolittle” and “The Prince of Egypt” and recorded by the girl group 702 and gospel great Yolanda Adam.
Childhood and Family:
Erica Monique Atkins and Trecina “Tina” Evette Atkins were born on April, 29, 1972, and May 1, 1975, respectively. The sisters are part of a big family consisting of nine children. They grew up in Inglewood, California. The daughters of a minister and an evangelist who directed the choir at the Evangelistic Church of God in Christ, they started singing in the church choirs as young girls and went on to study voice at El Camino College. Following gigs in Gospel road shows and TV productions as well as singing backup for various artists, the two founded the gospel music duo Mary Mary, a name they selected in honor of two women in the Bible, Mary Magdeline and Mary the mother of Jesus.
In August 2000, Tina married drummer Teddy Campbell. They welcomed their first child, daughter Laiah Simone Campbell, on September 9, 2003. Their second daughter, Meela Jane, was born on June 11, 2007. The older Atkins married their record producer Warryn Campbell on May 26, 2001. Their daughter, Krista Nicole Campbell, was born on September 13, 2004.
Raised by singing gospel parents, Erica and Tina were exposed to music at an early age. As young children, they listened to gospel music by artists such as the Clark Sisters, the Winans, Shirley Caesar, John P. Kee, Commissioned, Hezekiah Walker and Milton Brunson and sang with their siblings in the local church choir. After appearing on the “Bobby Jones Gospel” show on BET, the two decided to chase music professionally.
In 1995, Erica and Tina landed spots in the Michael Matthews gospel road show “Mama I'm Sorry.” They were then hired to appear in another Matthews show, “Sneaky.” They also found work as backup vocalists. Erica was spotted on the road singing backup for artists like Brian McKnight, Terry Ellis, Ray-J and Brandy while Tina sang background for Kenny Lattimore and Eric Benet. During that period, Erica and Tina took menial jobs in a local supermarket and a major department store, respectively, to make ends meet and pay school fees.
In addition to singing, Erica and Tina also worked on their songwriting skills. In 1996, they met young producer Warryn Campbell and the three began working together. Thanks to the help of Campbell, the girls secured a publishing contract and before long “Dance,” a song they wrote and performed with Robin S., was included on the “Dr. Dolittle” soundtrack. Their exceptional writing skills were further confirmed with the inclusion of the song “Let Go, Let God” for the movie “The Prince of Egypt” and a recording by girl group 702 of their original “What More Can He Do.”
After choosing the name Mary Mary for their group, Erica and Tina’s talent caught the eye of Columbia Records and in 1999, they became one of the first gospel duos to be signed with the major label. Their debut album, “Thankful,” followed on May 2, 2000.
Produced by Warryn Campbell, “Thankful” was an instant hit among critics and music lovers. It rose to No. 1 on the Gospel Album chart and was a Top 30 R&B/Hip-Hop and a Top 60 pop hit. The first single, “Shackles (Praise You),” became a crossover hit. It peaked at No. 1 on the Gospel chart, No. 9 on the R&B chart and No. 28 on Billboard's Hot 100. Another significant hit released from the album was “I Sings,” which featured gospel rapper BB Jay.
“Thankful” eventually received platinum certification in America and Mary Mary was launched as one of the major artists in contemporary Christian music. The album also brought the group a Grammy for Best Contemporary Gospel Album, a Dove for Urban Album of the Year and a Lady of Soul for Best Gospel Album while the song “Shackles (Praise You)” won Dove's Urban Recorded Song of the Year Award and Lady of Soul's Best R&B/Soul or Rap New Duo or Group Award. Also in 2000, the sisters enjoyed another success when gospel legend Yolanda Adam recorded their songs “Time To Change” and “Yeah” for her platinum selling album “Mountain High Valley Low.”
“There is versatility in the subject matter and the new record reflects our growth as singers and songwriters. The first album was very personal. This time, we also addressed wider issues. We're extending what we did last time.” Mary Mary (on “Incredible”)
“Incredible,” Mary Mary's second studio album, followed on July 16, 2002. It debuted at No. 1 on the Gospel Album chart, peaked at No. 20 on the Billboard Hot 200 and No. 10 on the R&B charts. The first single, “In The Morning,” (# 1 Gospel, #54 R&B) was a hit and won a 2003 Dove for Contemporary Gospel Recorded Song of the Year. Another single, “Thank You,” only peaked at No. 55 on the Gospel charts although it did win a Dove for Urban Recorded Song of the Year. “Incredible” netted a Stellar for Contemporary Group/Duo of the Year and earned gold status.
In late 2003, Mary Mary recorded the song “Dance Dance Dance” for the “Gotta Have Gospel” CD. It was a No. 1 hit Gospel song and brought the group a 2004 Dove for Urban Recorded Song of the Year.
Mary Mary resurfaced in 2005 with their third studio album, “Mary Mary.” Released on July 19 after a three year break, the album rose to No. 8 on the Billboard Album chart. It spawned the No.1 Gospel “Heaven,” which won a 2006 Stellar for Urban/Inspirational Single, Performance of the Year. “Mary Mary” went on to receive gold certification. Also in 2005, Mary Mary was awarded an American Music for Best Inspirational/Christian Contemporary Artist.
The follow-up, “A Mary Mary Christmas,” was launched on October 10, 2006. Inspired by Christmas carols and some original songs, the album rose to No. 148 on the Billboard Hot 200 and No. 33 on the R&B charts and produced the singles “Carol Of The Bells” and “Hark The Herald Angels Sing.”
“The Sound,” Mary Mary's new album, was released in 2008. It contains the single “Get up,” which peaked at No. 97 on the R&B charts and the title track “The Sound,” and several more tracks, including “Superfriend” (featuring David Banner) and “God In Me” (featuring Kierra Sheard).
Stellar: Urban/Inspirational Single/Performance of the Year, “Heaven,” 2006
American Music: Best Inspirational/Christian Contemporary Artist, 2005
Stellar: Contemporary Group/Duo of the Year, “Incredible,” 2004
Dove: Urban Recorded Song of the Year, “Dance, Dance, Dance,” 2004
Dove: Contemporary Gospel Recorded Song of the Year, “In the Morning,” 2003
Dove: Urban Recorded Song of the Year, “Thank You,” 2002
Lady of Soul: Best Gospel Album, “Thankful,” 2001
Lady of Soul: Best R&B/Soul or Rap New Duo or Group, “Shackles (Praise You),” 2001
Dove: Urban Recorded Song of the Year, “Shackles (Praise You),” 2001
Dove: Urban Album of the Year, “Thankful,” 2001
Grammy: Best Contemporary Gospel Album, “Thankful,” 2000