When we first met Josiah Russell in 2022, he had just been invited to sing on stage with R&B artist Kehlani at Dreamville Festival in Raleigh. He was also the newly elected Mr.NCCU but had not yet been coronated. Now, the recent graduate is focusing on growing his gospel music career and preparing for a big role in this weekend’s Duke’s Mayo Classic.
Josiah Russell has every right to be boastful about his vocal ability but chooses not to.
Russell, 21, has sung alongside Kehlani and even opened up for gospel artists Le’Andria Johnson and Kim Person in 2021.
Last year, he sang the national anthem in front of thousands of people at Duke’s Mayo Classic.
And now, through his music, he’s earned more than 5,000 monthly listeners on Spotify.
But Russell hasn’t allowed the spotlight to boost his ego. He said he remains humble because he wants to use his gifts to highlight his faith.
“I’m just so grateful. God is really good,” the Statesville, N.C. native told QCity Metro. “I believe that since I honor him with my gifts, that’s why he continues to bless me.”
This weekend, Russell will get the chance to show off his emcee and vocal skills as the in-game host of Duke’s Mayo Classic football game at Bank of America Stadium.
A focus on gospel
Russell said his gift for singing was first recognized when he began singing in church at three years old.
He said gospel music has had a big influence on his life, with Kiara Sheard and Zarcardi Cortez being among his favorite artists.
As a student at North Carolina Central University, Russell joined the Worship and Praise Inspirational (WPI) Mass Choir.
He has shared the stage with some of the biggest names in gospel music at NCCU’s homecoming in 2021.
His few minutes of fame were met with a loud ovation. Since the shoutout from Kehlani, Russell’s social media has grown from a few thousand followers on Instagram to now, more than 13,000 on the platform.
He said a number of celebrities DM’d him via Instagram. He even got a birthday shoutout from gospel artist Kirk Franklin.
He released his first gospel single,” Let Me Be Me,” in 2021.
His second single, “Make It,” was released in 2022.
When Russell became Mr. NCCU – one of the highest student honors elected by the student body to represent the school– in 2022, he received the chance to sing the national anthem at the Duke’s Mayo Classic in Charlotte that year.
The Charlotte Sports Foundation – the organization that heads the game– invited Russell to return this year with a bigger role.
“Josiah has a natural ability to have authentic conversations, make people smile and to bring positive energy to every room,” Miller Yoho, spokesperson for the CSF, said. “He is an awesome fit for an in-game host.”
Russell said he hopes the opportunity will be a steppingstone to enter the entertainment business. In addition to expanding his gospel music career, he also wants to explore acting.
“This is not only my first time hosting something this large, but I hope it’ll also propel me and give me other opportunities,” he said.
Russell plans to release new music in October.
For updates on his journey and music releases, follow his Instagram.