Music is indelibly tied to memory. You remember what song you heard right before you got your first kiss or when you experienced your first heartbreak or when you blew out the candles at your sweet 16? The song you had your first dance to at your wedding reception is just as important as the song they sang when y’all laid Big Mama to rest.
Music brings people together. Communities are formed around artists, and syllabi are created when greatness is released. Think Lemonade, or 4:44, or when the Carters released Everything Is Love. Being a part of these moments, knowing when they happened and what brought them about is what makes music fandom great.
At the intersection of music fandom, music history and great music storytelling is a weekly Twitter moment with its own hashtag put together by Naima Cochrane. It’s called the #MusicSermon, and people tune in every Sunday the way they would for a regular church service—coming to live, learn and fellowship with music we all know and love.
As the #MusicSermon’s resident pastor, Naima Cochrane—who is named after the John Coltrane classic “Naima”—brings with her 20 years of experience in the music industry.
“Both sides of my family are full of musicians and music heads,” she recently told The Root. “I played the violin.”
Cochrane worked on the marketing side at various music labels, including Bad Boy, Arista, Columbia and Epic. Up until this year, she was part of the management team for musician John Legend.
It is this wealth of knowledge that she brings with her every week as she puts together the #MusicSermon—something that she said started completely by accident.
“Last July was the 25th anniversary of Mary J. Blige’s What’s the 411?” she explained. “I was looking at videos from the ’90s and I was thinking about how hard we used to get it in. If there was a music video between ’87 to ’94, everybody was going super hard. It was a random Saturday afternoon, and I did this thread called ‘We Danced Hard as Fuck in the ’90s,’ including Mary J.’s ‘Real Love,’ Big Lez dancing at the beginning of Living Single, a dance scene from House Party and Special Ed’s ‘I Got It Made’ video. The thread was more about visuals, but it went weirdly viral in an engaging way. People were really relating to it and saying things like, ‘I had that outfit’ or ‘This is why my knees are bad.’
“It spurred other conversations about artists we don’t talk about enough, like Queen Latifah and the whole Uptown Records movement,” she continued. “The next day, I did a second thread called ‘All Hail Queen,’ about Queen Latifah, MC Lyte and Salt-N-Pepa. I was new to threading and jacked it up a lot, but the next week, I did Uptown Records. I started it off by saying I wasn’t going to be the thread lady. It was a Sunday and I said, ‘I want to preach about Uptown Records because they don’t get enough credit.’”
And thus the #MusicSermon was born.
“The idea that this would still be going a year later never crossed my mind,” Cochrane said. “It just kept growing. Each time I do one, it triggers an idea for another one I should do. I was doing it out of a sense of nostalgia. I’ve watched the music landscape change so much, so I did it as a nostalgic output.”
A year later, people stan for the #MusicSermon. The hashtag trends on Twitter weekly as people settle in to listen and learn from the woman who has built a community around music history.
“It’s crazy that it’s become this kind of community that could usually only happen in a chat room,” Cochrane said. “You don’t usually see this kind of community built on an open platform like Twitter. The three most communal elements of black culture are food, church—not religion—and music.”
Even her mother is a fan of the weekly discussion.
“My mother follows it regularly. She loves seeing how people respond to the sermon,” Cochrane told The Root. “I’ll do the sermon and be up for hours watching people’s responses to it. It’s so engaging in a really amazing way that I can’t take credit for. #MusicSermon is what it is because of the sermonites. I created the space, but the people built it into what it is. It’s fascinating to see.”
Cochrane said that each #MusicSermon takes about six hours to put together. She spends three hours the night before and three hours the day of putting the sermon together. She has her topics planned out at least three weeks in advance, and she keeps a running list of ideas for future topics. For her, this weekly Twitter discussion has become a personal responsibility, one that she takes seriously.
“There have been a couple of weeks when I just wasn’t feeling it, and I didn’t do it because I promised myself that I wouldn’t force it,” she said.
And now that the #MusicSermon has grown, she is looking for other opportunities to keep the masses engaged, including live events, quarterly parties, music panels and other events that will combine education with entertainment.
No matter what she does with it, Cochrane assures us that the #MusicSermon will never leave Twitter.
“I don’t think I will ever take the live sermons off of Twitter because the engagement is what makes them what they are,” she said. “It’s a communal thing, and that communal element goes away if I take it completely off of Twitter.
“The overwhelming support I’ve gotten from people I don’t even know speaks to the power of the community,” she added.
And we are sure the community will be happy to know that, because this is one “church” service that nobody minds sitting still for.