How Kirk Franklin breathed life into ‘Space Jam: A New Legacy’ soundtrack with ‘We Win’

Kirk Franklin performs at the Dove Awards
Kirk Franklin performs during the Dove Awards. He was part of “We Win,” the first song off the soundtrack for “Space Jam: A New Legacy.”
(Mark Humphrey/Associated Press)

For Kirk Franklin, being a part of “We Win,” the first single for the soundtrack to “Space Jam: A New Legacy” is “really, really, really humbling.” The Gospel icon is the owner of 16 Grammys and more than a dozen RIAA plaques for his two decades in the music industry. But being able to work on the soundtrack to the sequel of the 1996 pop culture phenomenon was special.

“This could have easily been a bigger, well-known household name that deserved the opportunity, that has earned the opportunity, that could have easily killed the opportunity,” Franklin said in a phone conversation with The Times, “and to be blessed to even be a part of something like this, these moments don’t come every day for somebody that comes where I come from. I just pray that I can bring [something] inspirational and some hope into the conversation.”

The first photos of “Space Jam: New Legacy” starring Lakers star LeBron James were released on Thursday from Entertainment Weekly.

He was brought to the project by Evan Lamberg, president of Universal Music Publishing. Franklin heard the beat by Grammy Award-winning producer Just Blaze that the team was struggling to bring to fruition. He asked for the stems of the track so that he could put his own touch in between the drum loops typical of hip-hop production.


“I needed to open it up a little bit so I can let it breathe,” Franklin said.

“We Win” is an uplifting anthem powered by a choir, Franklin’s piano and Atlanta rapper Lil Baby sharing motivational words about working together, the power of prayer, staying positive, striving for greatness and trusting in divine timing.

Franklin shared that in the film, which stars Lakers star LeBron James, the song “We Win” is actually longer, about five minutes, compared to the 3:14 run time of the commercial release.

“It’s even a bigger, even more colorful song in the movie,” he said.

He made sure to include a bridge in the same vein as a classic Mariah Carey or Brandy song that evokes a strong sense of emotion. “Whatever you may be goin’ through, we win / We’ll make it together, me and you, we win/And when the clouds they won’t fade away / Don’t you give up, you’re one step closer, it’s not the end,” the choir sings, guided by a groovy bassline and sharp claps.

“There’s not a lot of bridges anymore,” Franklin said. “So I wanted the song to have a bridge that kinda lifted it up and kinda took you to church real quick.”

LeBron James won’t have to travel far to film in his first big-budget movie since moving to Los Angeles, thanks to a generous tax break from California.

“I Believe I Can Fly” was the signature song to the original “Space Jam.” It peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart and is certified platinum. It also won R. Kelly three Grammys. The track is now embroiled in controversy as R. Kelly has faced several charges of sexual assault and has fallen from grace in the eyes of many, including streaming services.

Franklin was hesitant to speak on whether “We Win” is an opportunity to bring redemption to the “Space Jam” soundtrack.

“Ah man, that’s a big thought, I hadn’t even thought about that like that, nor do I want to,” he said. “I’m so humbled, man, I don’t want to miss focus of the bigger picture of just all the gratitude that I have.”

He sees “We Win” as an opportunity to uplift the Gospel music community. He remarks how the fabric of American music is woven with Gospel music as many stars sung in choirs. He names Grammy winners Jonathan McReynolds, Tasha Cobbs Leonard, Le’Andria Johnson, Maverick City Music’s Chandler Moore and Dove Award winner Travis Greene as current artists whom he is representing with “We Win.”

“We know how the Black church has been a catalyst for all Americana, just for American music,” he said. “So for someone who’s been part of that community his entire career to get an opportunity like this is I’m representing for my whole crew. … It’s not just about me. But it’s about all the incredible men and women that are so great in Gospel music that I want to shed light on that I want people to know.”

***, KIRK FRANKLIN, “Kirk Franklin Presents 1NC”, B-Rite Music

“We Win” is especially important in a time of political strife during a global pandemic. Even the recording process wasn’t normal as Franklin had to FaceTime with Lil Baby instead of working in the studio with him. But Franklin knows that the message of hope and love is exactly what’s needed.

“When was the last time you heard somebody just say, ‘God loves you?’... The last thing that the world needs is religion,” he said. “But what the world does need is to be reminded that they are made on purpose. … I hope that people that may feel like they’ve lost their life and they’ve lost their relationships or may have lost so much during this pandemic, that they can feel like that in the end, they win.”

“Space Jam: A New Legacy” opens in theaters July 16.

Listen to “We Win” below: